Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)

Still Life with Cash Box

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Still Life with Cash Box
signed and dated 'rf Lichtenstein '76' (on the reverse)
oil and magna on canvas
70 1/8 x 54 1/8 in. (178.1 x 137.5 cm.)
Painted in 1976.
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Waddington Galleries, London
Private collection, London
James Goodman Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner on 13 November 1981
F. Schulze, "Pop Art Without Zowie: Lichtenstein's New Cool," Panorama-Chicago Daily News, 5-6 February 1977, p. 12 (illustrated).
Chicago, Richard Gray Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein: New Still Lifes, January-February 1977.
San Francisco, Fine Arts Museum, The Work Show, September-November 1978.


Executed in 1976, this work will be included in the catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

Painted in 1976, Still Life with Cash Box is one of a series of Office Still Lifes that show deliberately and perversely underwhelming interiors whose very unobtrusiveness masks the conceptual somersaults that underpin Lichtenstein's paintings. Like all of his paintings, Still Life with Cash Box is essentially an abstraction, an exploration of the bizarre mechanics by which we see, which are here pushed to an absurd extreme as everyday objects such as a lamp, a desk, a window and the titular cash box are rendered through the use of diagonal lines that appear to invoke Op as much as Pop. In the Office Still Life series, Lichtenstein has complicated and reconstituted the process by which he created his paintings by taking more of a cue from the actual build-up and composition of the drawings that served as his models than ever before. In Still Life with Cash Box, this is evident in the blue and black stripes that recall the felt-pen lines from his drawing, as well as the grey which takes its cue from the pencil marks.

The drawing itself appears to have taken its subject matter from some ad or catalogue. There is the vague hint of implied narrative. Despite the humdrum appearance of the objects illustrated, the mechanics of the mind mean that our film noir-trained imaginations might read some crime into the sight of an open, empty cash box placed higgledy-piggledy upon a desk with the lamp behind it. Even the deliberately restrained palette, based on the minimal means of the drawing itself, adds to this atmosphere of an office that appears only recently to have been the scene of strange and possibly criminal goings-on. The viewer, though, in another Lichtenstein-esque twist, appears to have arrived after the event. Perhaps, by obliquely and tangentially introducing such subject matter, Lichtenstein was implying that he himself is the protagonist of some form of artistic crime, smuggling strange new meanings by subterfuge both into the realm of the office, which was doubtless fairly alien to him, and into the realm of art itself.