Roy Lichtenstein

Painting in Gold Frame from ‘Paintings’


Not on display

Roy Lichtenstein 1923–1997
Lithograph, woodcut, screenprint and paper on paper
Image: 1098 × 837 mm
frame: 1200 × 945 × 24 mm
Purchased 1984

Display caption

Here Lichtenstein has used the simplified style of the comic book to represent a section of a framed Abstract Expressionist painting. This is a characteristic example of the way his art combines dynamic imagery with a cool, detached manner of representation. It is a complex work, derived from a collage which combined hand-painted and printed papers, a printed enlargement of unprimed canvas, directly painted brushstrokes and a cut-out variation of the artist's famous schematic image of an abstract brushstroke. The final print thus embodies different ways of representing reality, given an ironic twist by the fact that what is represented is an abstract painting. A further irony is that Abstract Expressionist paintings never have elaborate gold frames.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Roy Lichtenstein born 1923

P77054 Painting in Gold Frame 1983-4 from ‘Paintings'

Lithograph, woodcut, screenprint and collage 1098 x 837 (43 1/4 x 33) on Arches 88 paper 1178 x 914 (46 3/8 x 36); printed by Serge Lozingot, Chris Sukimoto, James Reid, Anthony Zapeda, Krystine Graziano, Alan Holoubek, Ken Farley, Michael Harrigan and Ron McPherson at Gemini GEL, Los Angeles and published by Gemini GEL in an edition of 60
Inscribed ‘12/60 Roy Lichtenstein '84' towards b.r.; printer's and publisher's stamp b.r.
Purchased from Waddington Graphics (Grant-in-Aid) 1984
Lit: Ruth E. Fine, Gemini G.E.L.: Art and Collaboration, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington and Abbeville Press, New York 1984, pp.205-6 no.89, repr. p.204 (col.)

P77054 is from a series of eight prints entitled ‘Paintings'. According to Fine, Lichtenstein

worked for a month and a half at his Southampton [USA] studio completing eight elaborate collages to actual size for the proposed prints. In five of them, sections of two framed paintings are juxtaposed. The other three show sections of a single canvas, abstract expressionist in style, against active wall-fields: two striped, one simulated wood grain (p.205).

P77054 has a striped ‘wall-field'. Fine describes the collages as follows:

The collage components include hand-painted papers of great density and richness in yellow, peach, blue and black; printed papers with blue and white, black and white, red and white, or black and yellow stripes, and red dots on a white field - all vintage Lichtenstein; and a printed enlargement of unprimed canvas texture. The collages depicting the abstract expressionist paintings include actual brushstrokes (directly painted) juxtaposed with variations on Lichtenstein's well-known brushstroke image (cut-out and pasted down). Some of the paintings' picture frames are formed by silver or gold foil (p.205).

P77054 has black and yellow stripes, signifying the wall on which the painting is hung, and gold foil to represent the frame.

The prints which resulted from the collages are very closely related to them. The brushstrokes, which form the central motif, are transferred lithographically from paper. They are parodies of Lichtenstein's own brushstroke prints and paintings as well as notional ‘typical' abstract expressionist markings executed in broad, relatively random sweeps. Thus Lichtenstein is not only representing an abstract expressionist brushstroke but he is also representing his own schematic representation of an abstract expressionist brushstroke. Although both kinds of mark are in themselves stylisations, the ‘abstract expressionist' brushstokes are made to appear fresher and more spontaneous when juxtaposed with the Lichtenstein brushstrokes, some of which are heavily outlined in the manner of cartoon drawings. The juxtaposition is accordingly an ironic comment on the reproductive process.

The irony is further elaborated in a number of thematic juxtapositions, for P77054 represents high art (abstract expressionism) with low art (comic style imagery); anonymity (of the perfect facture of Lichtenstein's brushstroke, although this is a further irony because it is instantly recognisable as Lichtenstein's and therefore is not anonymous) with personality (the autographic abstract expressionist marks). There are also elements of parody and self parody. Furthermore the complex relationship between a reproduction and a representation is also invoked since P77054 is a reproduction (albeit original in the sense of all limited edition autographic prints) of a collage which in itself is a representation of an ‘ideal' painting in a gold frame. However, the reproductive nature of a print is called into question by the inclusion of foil to signify the frame since, however minutely, the collage creates a change in level and endows the work with a material presence which is once again denied by cropping. The print is an image in itself as well as the representation of an image.

The cropping of forms, a device Lichtenstein has employed for many years (see entry on P77053), is consistent with the practice of cartoonists and also with abstract expressionist paintings whose edges were often determined by stretching after completion of the work. They were therefore subject to cropping. Cropping also asserts the object quality of the work of art rather than the illusion of the work of art as a window on the world. A basic law of Gestalt theory is that incomplete forms are mentally completed or corrected by the perceiver. Thus the viewer is encouraged to complete the frame at the top and right hand sides in order to reassure himself that the brushstrokes are a figure and not a ground. The ambiguous relationship between figure and ground is a constant theme in Lichtenstein's work. The spatial ambiguity is compounded by the layering of the different kinds of brushstrokes which are interwoven rather than contained within separate planes.

This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.407-8

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