Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
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Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)

Collage for Nude with Red Shirt

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Collage for Nude with Red Shirt
signed and dated 'Rf Lichtenstein '95' (on the reverse)
acrylic on paper collage, printed paper collage, tape, marker and graphite on card
sheet size: 47¼ x 40¼in. (120 x 102cm.)
image only: 39 1/8 x 32½in. (99.5 x 82.5cm.)
Executed in 1995
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York.
Galerie Beyeler, Basel.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998.
Zurich, Galerie Art Focus, Roy Lichtenstein, March-May 1997 (illustrated in colour, on the cover).
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With its beautifully conceived composition, bold colors, and meticulous and playful manipulation of the collage technique, Roy Lichtenstein's Collage for Nude with Red Shirt, stands as an impressive example of the artist's late work. This fully realized collage represents not only a culmination in the artist's practice of sourcing imagery from American Pop Culture and combining it with the most traditional themes of academic art, but highlights Lichtenstein's witty conceptual genius and innovative emphasis on process. What makes this scene so intriguing is not so much the gorgeous elegance of the central figure but the presence of the twist of hair to the left side of the composition which only becomes apparent upon close inspection and gives rise to the realization of the presence of a second figure in the scene.

For Collage for Nude with Red Shirt, the artist draws inspiration from a specific frame in the December 1967 issue of Secret Hearts. Compositionally, Lichtenstein has modernized and uncluttered the scene, stripped the central figure of her lace slip, reduced the second figure in the frame to an abstracted curve along the left edge of the board and reinterpreted the depiction in his distinctive Pop Art style. Now clearly a bedroom scene, the viewer takes on a voyeuristic role as we peer into a narrative evocative of the boudoir scenes of the late 19th and 20th Centuries. With her arched eyebrows, long eyelashes and luscious red lips, Lichtenstein's confident subject takes on a Femme Fatale persona.

The nude is a recurring element in Lichtenstein's work of the 1990's. Populating his later works with sultry and seductive nude protagonists, the artist parodies the time-honored art-historical theme of the female figure as subject matter. By borrowing compositions from source materials, and rendering the subjects overtly naked, Lichtenstein mischievously undermines the more static and abstract embodiments of feminine beauty that appear throughout the history of art - Courbet, Manet, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec come to mind.

For Lichtenstein, the process was just as important, if not more, than his elected subject matter. As the artist himself stated in 1995, 'My use of evenly repeated dots and diagonal lines and uninflected color areas suggest that my work is right where it is, definitely not a window into the world the enlargement of these comic book devices make obvious that we take for reality configurations that are very abstract I do this partly because I don't think the importance of the art has anything to do with the importance of the subject matter. I think importance resides more in the unity of the composition and in the inventiveness of perception' (quoted in Roy Lichtenstein Beginning to End, Fundacin Juan March, Madrid, 2007, p. 128). The layered composition of Collage for Nude with Red Shirt, we gain rare insight into the intricate compositional technique employed in the artist's studio. Masterfully utilizing photographic tape for the hard black outlines and layering printed-paper collage elements with hand painted paper and even incorporating marker and graphite, Lichtenstein breaks down the common notion of seeing into abstracted elements, which together result in a realistic depiction. This highly exact methodology heightens the two dimensionality of the work, while resulting in machine-like and
effortlessly fresh depiction reminiscent of mass produced newsprint - outwardly devoid of the artist's hand. Lichtenstein delivers a meticulous work thoroughly executed and fully realized in its composition.

Throughout his oeuvre, Lichtenstein time and time again challenged the boundaries of rigid art-historical stereotypes while maintaining his idiosyncratic world view. Collage for Nude with Red Shirt is an outstanding representation of Roy Lichtenstein's innovative artistic vision simultaneously combining an awareness of the history of art, and a deliberate visual duality contrasting abstraction and realistic depiction.