T04998 Lisi 1976
Ink, wax crayon and gouache on light-weight wove paper 295 × 208 (11 5/8 × 8 1/8)
Inscribed ‘M.R.’ within an oval and ‘76’ b.r.
Purchased from Galerie Stähli, Zürich (Grant-in-Aid) 1987
Exh: Markus Raetz: Arbeiten 1962 bis 1986, Kunsthaus, Zürich, June–Aug. 1986 (119, repr. in col.)
‘Lisi’ depicts a female nude drawn with black wax crayon and white gouache. The ground has been given a brown wash, modulated with areas of purple. Although the work is called ‘Lisi’, a Swiss-German nickname for a young girl, the figure is derived from a nude photograph of Marilyn Monroe, taken before she became a celebrity and used as a pin-up in a calendar. The artist was given a small reproduction of this photograph, which had hung in a cinema entrance, by a friend in 1976.
In conversation with the compiler on 10 March 1994, the artist explained how he made T04998 and the related works T04999 and T05000, also entitled ‘Lisi’. Raetz, who was living in Bern in this period, first made a print of the outline figure of the nude (‘Marilyn I’, 1976, 223 × 200 mm, repr. Rainer Michael Mason and Juliane Willi-Cosandier, Markus Raetz: Les Estampes; Die Druckgraphik; The Prints 1958–1991, Cabinet des estampes, Geneva 1991, no.157 in col.). This was produced from two matrices, made from pieces of string glued to card, which together made up the shape of the nude. One matrix was for the highlighted lines, the other was for the darker lines. In the version reproduced in the Mason and Willi-Cosandier catalogue, the highlighted lines are printed in red-brown, the darker lines in black. However, Raetz also made some proofs using white and black. This division of the image into light and dark lines is found also in T04998, T04999, and T05000. These unique works are described by the artist as ‘frottages’ because the black lines were produced by rubbing a black wax crayon over the raised lines of one of the matrices. An interest in the effects of different techniques for reproducing an image inspired this group of works: in a letter to the compiler dated 9 May 1994 he said that they were ‘trials to find out other possibilities of reproducing the image’.
To make T04998 Raetz first painted a wash of brown diluted pen ink over the paper, leaving an uneven margin of unpainted paper at the top (approx. 10 mm). He then gently pressed the sheet, which was thin, typing paper, onto each of the matrices in turn. It is likely that he used a roller dipped in white gouache to take an impression of the highlighted lines (he had used a roller to make impressions of the print ‘Marilyn I’). He then used a black wax crayon to follow the shape of the second matrix. The line behind and to the right of the figure found in the print ‘Marilyn I’ and in T04999 and T05000 is missing in T04998. He then added a second wash of extremely diluted purple pen ink, in places going over the white gouache lines. In conversation Raetz said that he had signed the work in an unusually noticeable manner, with his initials enclosed in a bold curve, in an attempt to parody a flamboyant type of artist's signature.
Raetz made only a small number of unique works or ‘trials’, as he prefers to call them, using the printing matrices. In his letter to the compiler he wrote that, in addition to the three acquired by the Tate Gallery (T04998, T04999, T05000), two or three others had been bought, he thought, by private collectors, one was in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and he had kept another. He added that he had taken about six or seven impressions of the ‘Marilyn I’ print. He still had the matrices in his studio, and said that he might yet make a small edition of prints from them, possibly in black and white on grey paper.
Raetz used the Marilyn pose in T04997 and the related works because it was instantly recognisable or, at least, familiar to many people. When the identity of an image was not in question, it was easier, he believed, to focus on the issue of how the image was represented and understood. For the same reason he had used the image of Mickey Mouse in a series of sculptures executed two years previously, in 1974 (see, for example, ‘Mickey Mouse Head’, 1974, repr. Markus Raetz, exh. cat., Ivam Centre Julio González, Valencia 1993, p.47, no.70). Raetz has used images of nudes in pin-up poses, rendered in white on a dark ground, in a series of six prints entitled ‘Pin Up’, 1970 (repr. Mason and Willi-Cosandier 1991, pp.68–9, nos.120–5). He was to use the Marilyn image in several later works. In 1977 he made a coloured etching of a nude in the Marilyn pose (repr. ibid., p.95, no.161 in col., as ‘Marilyn II’), and used the same figure in a mysterious setting in ‘Trial Plate’ (repr. ibid., p.99, no.166). In the same year he also employed this image in the first of a series of nine works, described as ink washes over wax crayon (repr. Zürich exh. cat., 1986, pp.100–1, no.110, as ‘O.T.’). In ‘Lisi’, 1976 (repr. ibid., p.103, no.121 in col.), he used a spray can to trace the same pose.
This entry has been approved by the artist.
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996