Roy Lichtenstein

Reflections on Minerva


Not on display

Roy Lichtenstein 1923–1997
Lithograph, screenprint on paper and metalised PVC on paper
Object: 1067 × 1314 mm
frame: 1222 × 1470 × 65 mm
Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Collection 2015
On long term loan


Reflections on Minerva 1990 is from a group of seven Reflections prints which Lichtenstein worked on at Tyler Graphics in Mount Kisco, New York during 1989 and 1990. These prints are recorded in the artist’s catalogue raisonné and described as combining ‘lithography, screenprint, and relief with collage and embossing. Swan Engraving, Bridgeport, Connecticut, processed the magnesium plates.’ (Corlett 1994, pp.221–6). Tate’s copies are part of the sixteen artist’s proofs aside from the edition of sixty-eight. The other prints in the series are: Reflections on Hair 1990 (Tate P12127), Reflections on Brushstrokes 1990 (Tate P12128), Reflections on Crash 1990 (Tate AL00368), Reflections on Girl 1990 (Tate AL00369), Reflections on Conversation 1990 (Tate AL00367) and Reflections on The Scream 1990 (Tate AL00371). In all the Reflection prints, the image is partly obscured by semi-abstract blocks of colour and pattern which simulate reflected light, as if the image is seen behind glass or reflected in another surface. The idea was developed by Lichtenstein in a group of paintings he started in 1988 and which he continued to work on until 1993. Speaking of the paintings series in 1995, the artist explained:

It started when I tried to photograph a print by Robert Rauschenberg that was under glass. But the light from a window reflected on the surface of the glass and prevented me from taking a good picture. But it gave me the idea of photographing fairly well-known works under glass, where the reflection would hide most of the work, but you could still make out what the subject was. Well, I tried to do a few photographs in this manner; but I am not much of a photographer. Later the idea occurred to me to do the same idea in painting; and I started this series on various early works of mine … It portrays a painting under glass. It is framed and the glass is preventing you from seeing the painting. Of course the reflections are just an excuse to make an abstract work, with the cartoon image being supposedly partly hidden by the reflections.
(Roy Lichtenstein, ‘A Review of My Work Since 1961’, in Bader 2009, p.69.)

In making the screenprints in the Reflections series, Lichtenstein appropriated imagery from his past works, and particularly from comic book sources, returning to subject matter he had addressed in the 1960s. Lichtenstein’s approach in these reflection works can therefore be read as a witty comment on the techniques of pop artists who themselves quoted and reused imagery found in popular culture, and perhaps an acknowledgement that his own work had entered into popularised visual culture. The idea of reflection in these works also has a precedent in earlier works by Lichtenstein in which mirrors and reflections on glass play a key part, for example, in works derived from comic strips such as In the Car 1963 (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, GMA 2133).

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, The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonné: 1948–1993, New York and Washington D.C. 1994.
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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