Roy Lichtenstein

Set of Dinnerware Objects: Dinner Plate, Soup Dish, Salad Plate, Side Plate, Saucer, Cup


On display at Tate Liverpool

Roy Lichtenstein 1923–1997
Displayed: 260 x 600 x 500 mm
Presented by Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, Paris 1967

Display caption

Lichtenstein devised a project to mass-produce dinnerware in 1966. In this set, he has applied to the surface of the objects graphic symbols usually employed in advertising images or cartoons to suggest shading and depth. As he noted, 'this sometimes gets into amusing contradictions between what is two-dimensional and what is three-dimensional'.

This set is one of an edition of 800 produced in New York by the Jackson China Co. Inc. for the Durable Dish Co., and originally cost $40.00-50.00 (£23.00-30.00).

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Roy Lichtenstein born 1923 [- 1997]

T00963 Dinnerware Objects 1966

China, six separate pieces, each inscribed on under-side: 'Jackson China | for | Durable Dish Co. | by rf Lichtenstein | c 1966'
Cup, 2 1/2 x 4 7/8 x 3 7/8 (6.4 x 12.4 x 9.9)
Saucer, 1 1/4 x 6 1/16 x 6 1/16 (3 x 15.4 x 15.4)
Side plate, 3/4 x 6 3/8 x 6 3/8 (2 x 16.2 x 16.2)
Salad plate, 1 x 8 1/8 x 8 1/8 (2.5 x 20.7 x 20.7)
Soup dish, 1 1/2 x 8 1/4 x 8 1/4 (3.8 x 21 x 21)
Dinner plate, 1 1/8 x 10 3/16 x 10 3/16 (2.8 x 25.9 x 25.9)
Presented by the Galerie Ileana Sonnabend 1967
Prov: With Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, Paris (purchased from the Durable Dish Co., New York)
Exh: Roy Lichtenstein, Tate Gallery, January-February 1968 (76, cup and saucer repr.)

The set is one in an edition of 800. It was conceived by the artist in 1966, produced in New York by the Jackson China Co., Inc., for the Durable Dish Co., and published on October 1966.

The artist stated (letter of 4 June 1968 from Miss Dorothy Herzka) that the 'Dinnerware Objects' are the only objects of this kind he had made in an edition. They follow the unique ceramic sculptures of girls' heads and of crockery which he made in 1965 and exhibited at the Castelli Gallery, New York, the same year. In several of these earlier pieces, cups shown stacked one inside another and teaspoons shown resting in saucers were permanently joined as one piece at the time of manufacture, whereas each of the six items in the present work is separate. Lichtenstein aimed 'to decorate a three-dimensional object with the two-dimensional symbols of its three-dimensionality'. Wishing to simulate diner or cheap restaurant dishware, he selected blank dishes of a suitable size and thickness which he then decorated by applying decals for the dots and by painting other black areas. These prototypes were then reproduced in edition by the Jackson China Co., using a combination of underglaze and overglaze, the decals being overglaze. Stencils were used in the application of some of the black areas, spraying occasionally resulting in an unintentionally misty texture. For some areas direct hand application was the only practicable method.

The theme of domestic utensils was especially prominent in Lichtenstein's paintings of 1961-3. 'Ice Cream Soda' 1962 makes particularly open use of two-dimensional signs for reflections on three-dimensional form.

In a television interview with Alan Solomon (reprinted in Fantazaria No.2, July-August 1966, pp.36-42) Lichtenstein said of his ceramic sculptures: 'Then I wanted to go into ceramic, and looked for some way of doing my image in ceramic. The idea of doing it this way, and in three-dimensions, was particularly interesting to me because the symbols that I use are used purely to give three-dimensional effects on a two-dimensional surface. The shadows and lighting that you see in cartooning and in advertisements usually depict the kind of light reflection on shiny surface which tries to make the two-dimensional image look round. The idea of using these same two-dimensional symbols on an actual three-dimensional surface was interesting. Also, the idea of doing say, a sculpture of cups and saucers in the same material that cups and saucers are done in, ceramic, was another thing which interested me quite a bit ...

'Let's imagine an ad in which cups and saucers are being advertised, and on the surface of the drawings of them in the newspaper we have light and shade, which is depicted in either flat black marks or in half-tone dots. These half-tone dots represent three dimensions. But to put these half-tone dots on an actual three-dimensional surface was the problem that interested me. It was in another way, an excuse for decorating a surface but a kind of interesting one; actually you sometimes see this in toys where you may find several people in a rocket ship or something, and the people are actually printed on the surface of the rocket ship, and not actually inside the ship. This sometimes gets into amusing contradictions between what is two-dimensional and what is three-dimensional in these toys. Well, it's somewhat the same thing that I'm doing in ceramic with cups and saucers. The heads are a little bit of a different problem because the original heads, of course, are not in ceramic ...'

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.438-9, reproduced p.438

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