Roy Lichtenstein

Modern Art II


Not on display

Roy Lichtenstein 1923–1997
Screenprint on paper
Object: 1229 × 973 mm
frame: 1336 × 1086 × 46 mm
Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Collection 2015
On long term loan


Modern Art II 1996 was published by Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles and is recorded in the second volume of the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s prints (Corlett and Fine 2002). It is part of a series of Modern Art prints that Lichtenstein made during 1996, the year before he died. Another example, Modern Art I 1996 (Tate AL00381), is also in Tate’s collection. In Modern Art I Lichtenstein explored the refracted style of cubism found in the work of modern masters such as Pablo Picasso. In Modern Art II Lichtenstein explored the cubist style further, in particular Picasso’s dislocated figurative imagery. The nose, with its starkly painted striations and almost animalistic appearance, suggests a reference to the imagery Picasso used in paintings such as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon 1907 (Museum of Modern Art, New York). However, in Lichtenstein’s hands, with his use of Benday dots, blocks of colour and black outlines, and introduction of a bold wave of blond hair, the dislocated features are transformed into highly stylised imagery more common to slick cartoons and comic books. Tate’s copy of Modern Art II is number three of ten artist’s proofs aside from the edition of fifty.

From the early 1960s Lichtenstein made works that focused on the work of modern masters, such as the painting Woman with Flowered Hat 1963. Speaking about this painting, Lichtenstein explained:

Instead of using subject matter that was considered vernacular, or everyday, I used subject matter that was celebrated as art. What I wanted to express wasn’t that Picasso was known and therefore commonplace. Nobody thought of Picasso as common. What I am painting is a kind of Picasso done the way a cartoonist might do it, or the way it might be described to you, so it loses the subtleties of Picasso, but it takes on other characteristics: the Picasso is converted to my pseudo-cartoon style and takes on a character of its own. Artists have often converted the work of other artists to their own style.
(Roy Lichtenstein, ‘A Review of My Work Since 1961’, in Bader 2009, p.61.)

Elsewhere, Lichtenstein noted:

I’ve always been interested in Matisse but maybe a little more interested in Picasso. But they are both overwhelming influences on everyone, really. Whether one tries to be like them or tries not to be like them, they’re always there as presences to be dealt with. They’re just too formidable to have no interest. I think that somebody who pretends he’s not interested is not interested in art.
(Ibid., p.55.)

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.
Gianni Mercuri (ed.), Roy Lichtenstein: Meditations on Art, Milan 2010.
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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