Roy Lichtenstein

Composition I


Not on display

Roy Lichtenstein 1923–1997
Screenprint on paper
Object: 1211 × 881 mm
frame: 1666 × 1390 × 46 mm
Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Collection 2015
On long term loan


Composition I 1996 is one of three screenprints published by Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles and recorded in the second volume of the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s prints (Corlett and Fine 2002), the other two being Composition II 1996 (Tate AL00379) and Composition III 1996 (Tate AL00380). In these prints Lichtenstein presented arrangements of curving and looping musical staves; no longer fixed on their usual horizontal, linear orientation, the musical notation is set free. Two of the prints – Composition I and Composition III – are vertical in format, while Composition II has a landscape format. The notes and curving staves are set against area of primary colours and the artist’s signature diagonal lines and dots. Music was one of Lichtenstein’s great loves – he played the flute and saxophone and was particularly interested in jazz. These images therefore respond to the freedom and improvisatory nature of this form of music, as well as pointing to the artist’s own exploration of visual composition. This copy of Composition I is number three of ten artist’s proofs aside from the edition of fifty.

Lichtenstein was born in New York, and was a central player in American pop art. He came to prominence in the 1960s, making works based on imagery from comic strips, such as In the Car and Whaam! 1963 (Tate T00897). In these works he used the Benday dot, common to newspaper and magazine reproduction, to produce works that appeared mechanically reproduced, and which in fact are even more stylised than the cartoons Lichtenstein appropriated. Printmaking was an integral part of his practice throughout his career from the late 1950s through to the 1990s.

Further reading
Mary Lee Corlett and Ruth E. Fine, The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonné: 1948–1997, New York and Washington D.C., revised and updated second edition 2002.
Graham Bader (ed.), OCTOBER Files 7: Roy Lichtenstein, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London 2009.
James Rondeau and Sheena Wagstaff, Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London and Art Institute of Chicago 2012.

Lucy Askew
Senior Curator, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
August 2014

Amended by Stephen Huyton
Assistant Collection Registrar, ARTIST ROOMS
September 2017

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