This room spotlights a group of early paintings from 1959–60, when Lichtenstein attempted to engage with abstract expressionism. These are rich and vivid experimentations with colour that marked a transitional period for the artist. Lichtenstein soon abandoned this painterly style in his search for his own pop vocabulary.

At the end of his life, the brushstroke re-emerged with surprising new meanings. In 1996 he embarked on a little-known series of small paintings that he called ‘obliterating brushstrokes’, in which handpainted, loosely applied brushstrokes are juxtaposed with geometric forms. In contrast to the monumental nude paintings made at the same time, they can be seen as a quiet, almost simple meditation on the very essence of painting. These small late paintings bring together two opposing approaches to painting – spontaneous release versus controlled application – via its very DNA: the brushstroke.