Landscape With Grass

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  • Provenance

    Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Leo Castelli Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein: Landscapes in the Chinese Style, 26 September - 26 October 1996
    Hong Kong, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Landscapes in Chinese Style, 19 May - 19 July 1998, n.p. (illustrated)
    Florida, Museum of Contemporary Art, Roy Lichtenstein: Inside/ Outside, 11 December 2001 – 24 February 2002
    New York, Marlborough Gallery, Landscape • Cityscape, 5 - 30 April 2005
    Hong Kong, Gagosian Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein: Chinese Landscapes, 12 November - 22 December 2011, p. 37, 109, 124 (illustrated)
    New York, Gagosian Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein: Chinese Landscapes, 1 March - 7 April 2012

  • Video

    Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Landscape With Grass’: A Homecoming

    We're excited to have Roy Lichtenstein's 'Landscape With Grass' from 1996 as a centerpiece of our inaugural Hong Kong sales: With its distinctive allusions to Chinese landscapes, it is the perfect metaphor for East meets West. It was also first exhibited in Hong Kong a year after the artist's death. Deputy Chairman and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia Jonathan Crockett discusses this monumental work, and the significance of it's Hong Kong homecoming.

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘That’s what I’m getting into. I’m thinking about something like Chinese landscapes with mountains a million miles high, and a tiny fishing boat – something scroll like, and horizontal with graduated dots making these mountains, and dissolving into mist and haze. It will look like Chinese scroll paintings, but all mechanical.’ (Roy Lichtenstein, cited in Jo Ann Lewis, 'Lichtenstein’s Eastern Sunset,' Washington Post, November 13, 1998.)

    Standing before Roy Lichtenstein’s Landscape with Grass, the viewer is absorbed within a monumental landscape. The picture, towering almost three metres tall, engulfs us. The zig-zagging strands of grass in the foreground lead us in, while the hazy blue forms that ascend the canvas indicate a mountainous landscape that plunges into the distance, gradually dissolving. Down one side of the picture, a light yellow band echoes the mounting techniques used in hanging scrolls in classical China and Japan traditions, although Lichtenstein has playfully allowed one of the blades of grass to trespass onto it, breaching the supposed frame.

    Painted in 1996, Landscape with Grass, is an outstanding example from Lichtenstein’s series ‘Landscapes in the Chinese Style.’ This was a sequence of large-scale works created in the mid-1990s of which is owned by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, while another is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This is highly appropriate: it was at an exhibition there that Lichtenstein was initially inspired to explore Chinese landscape painting as a source for this series. The exhibition was actually of Edgar Degas’ landscapes, yet looking at that artist’s pastels and monotypes, which often made use of evocatively minimal marks to convey their views, Lichtenstein was inspired to explore the eloquent restraint of Chinese landscapes as material for his own unique take on art.

    Lichtenstein had a deep interest in Chinese landscape painting, and the wider sphere of Oriental art. As early as 1944—half a century before he painted Landscape with Grass—he wrote to his parents after buying a book on the subject for too much money, betraying his enthusiasm (see Karen Bandlow-Bata, ‘Roy Lichtenstein-Landscapes in the Chinese Style’, trans. Ishbel Flett and Catherine Schelbert, pp. 6-16, Landscapes in the Chinese Style, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, Hong Kong, 2011, p. 7). Over the years, he acquired a number of similar books, and viewed works extensively in museum and private collections. The erudition he gained filtered into Landscape with Grass, which was inspired by pictures from, and influenced by, the Song Dynasty.

    Lichtenstein’s ability to filter this knowledge through his own unique aesthetic is evident in Landscape with Grass: like the Chinese landscape artists of a thousand years ago, and their later Japanese and Korean disciples, in some areas Lichtenstein has allowed empty areas to evoke layers of cloud, playfully using minimal means to convey meaning. However, he has largely used blue Ben Day dots, shown in different densities and sizes. Lichtenstein thus deconstructs the entire process of making—and reading—pictures. Where the spontaneous brushstrokes of the masters of the Song Dynasty evoked the mountainous landscapes that gave a sense of man’s place within all-engulfing nature, Lichtenstein has provocatively invoked a mock-mechanical process, highlighting the artifice of the entire nature of painting.

    In Landscape with Grass, this artifice is reinforced by the mottled dabs of green and yellow, as well as the miniscule, cartoonish image of the man on a boat. These elements all reveal some of Lichtenstein’s process in creating his ‘Landscapes in the Chinese Style’: as the archives reveal, he initially created the composition in a work on paper, before creating a half-size collage, in part making use of painted pieces of paper, echoing the cut-outs of Henri Matisse. The elements of green, yellow and red within Landscape with Grass, including the titular foliage itself, serve as a foil to the mechanical-seeming dots, introducing texture and a deceptive air of spontaneity.

    In Landscape with Grass, Lichtenstein’s techniques—both the dots and the more speckled flashes of colour—deceive and enlighten the viewer. We read the landscape, yet see the methods of its construction, never quite suspending our disbelief. In presenting the viewer with such a monumental, absorbing vista, Lichtenstein plays with associations of contemplation, of the viewers losing themselves within the expanse of the mist-enshrouded mountains. Lichtenstein was aware that, for many viewers, his own Chinese landscapes were seductive enough to achieve a similar effect to their Song Dynasty precursors: ‘I think [the Chinese landscapes] impress people with having somewhat the same kind of mystery [historical] Chinese paintings have, but in my mind it's a sort of pseudo-contemplative or mechanical subtlety... I'm not seriously doing a kind of Zen-like salute to the beauty of nature. It's really supposed to look like a printed version.’ (Roy Lichtenstein, quoted in Roy Lichtenstein: Landscapes in the Chinese Style, exh. cat., Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1997, n.p.)

  • Catalogue Essay

    站在羅伊‧李奇登斯坦《中式山水系列:山水與草》前,觀眾會沈酣於碩大的風景裡。油畫高近三米,大得把人吞沒,前景幾棵曲折小草先引人入景,背後的藍點如霧似煙,在畫布上層層遞進,有如萬里迷霧的山景,隨景深逐漸消逝。畫側有一道黃帶,呼應着中國及日本卷軸畫的裱褙技巧,李奇登斯坦卻戲筆,把其中一棵草的葉尖畫到黃帶上,逾越到裱褙去。

    《中式山水系列:山水與草》畫於1996年,是李奇登斯坦「中國式山水」作品系列中,最常作展覧的其中一幅畫。該系列大型畫作在上世紀九十年代中創作,波士頓美術館及紐約大都會藝術博物館各收藏了一幅,而這亦非常合乎情理,因為李奇登斯坦就在那兒參觀展覽後,受啓發去探索中國山水作為創作靈感的可行性。他參觀的是埃德加‧德加風景畫畫展,看着那些粉彩及單版印刷的版畫,筆觸極簡卻能道出風景,驅使他探索可否以中國山水畫的涵養為藍本,創作出自己獨特風格的藝術。

    對於中國山水畫以至東方藝術,李奇登斯坦素來興趣盎然,早於1944年,即《中式山水系列:山水與草》面世前半個世紀,他購買了一本書後,去函父母,說雖花費過甚,卻發現了熱情所在(錄於Karen Bandlow-Bata著,〈羅伊‧李奇登斯坦之中國式山水畫系列〉,Ishbel Flett、Catherine Schelbert譯,第6-16頁;〈中式山水畫系列〉展覧目錄,香港高古軒畫廊,2011年,第7頁)。多年來,他買的類同書籍不勝舉目,也在博物館及私人收藏家處博覽畫作。他精深篤學,亦受宋代畫作啟發感染,把精萃全匯聚於《中式山水系列:山水與草》裡。

    「事緣是這樣的,我在想着萬丈高的延綿山脈及一艘小漁船,像一幅卷畫軸。座座的山由無盡小點形成,在山嵐之間,隨水平線上漸去。這看起猶似一幅中國畫軸,卻很機械化。」(李奇登斯坦,節錄自Jo Ann Lewis著,〈李奇登斯的東方落日〉,錄於《華盛頓郵報》,1998年11月13日)

    《中式山水系列:山水與草》一畫能彰顯李奇登斯坦如何以其獨特美學,粹取淵博知識運用到藝術創作之上。他就像一千年前的中國山水畫畫家,及其後的日本和韓國山水畫畫家,得留白處且留白,引起無限遐想。他即使常用不同大小及密度的藍色Ben Day 點陣,亦以有趣簡約手筆觸,表達心中所想。換而言之,畫作創作及理解的整個過程,李奇登斯坦將之切底解構了。宋代大師筆觸即興,憑藉山水風景,人淹沒在天地間,予以一種安身立命之感;而李奇登斯坦則以模擬機械式的工序,突出繪畫本質精妙之處。

    畫家在《中式山水系列:山水與草》裡,利用斑駁黃綠,以及微細、卡通似的船上人兒去強調如此巧思。這些元素全都反映李奇登斯坦創作「中式山水畫系列」的過程,據文獻所說,他先在紙上設計圖畫布局,然後製作原來一半大小的拼貼畫,當中運用了顏色紙屑,就像亨利‧馬蒂斯的剪畫。《中式山水系列:山水與草》裡的綠色、黃色和紅色元素,包括那無甚實質作用的葉子,在有如機械式點陣上,也不過是陪襯品,為畫作加添質感,以及令人以為這是即興之作。

    李奇登斯坦在《中式山水系列:山水與草》中使用點陣,偶爾用上一抹顏色,這技法誤導觀眾同時亦啟迪了他們。我們眼看的是風景,同時也看到風景是如何構建的,這該讓人好生疑惑。呈獻如此宏大、引人入勝的風景予觀眾,李奇登斯坦借茫茫山嵐,令他們進入物我兩忘之境。

    李奇登斯坦知道,在很多觀眾眼中,其中式山水畫的魅力,足以臻至前人在宋代所創之效。「我想(中式山水)大概都是以中式畫作裡的奧妙,令觀賞者留下深刻印象。我的想法是,那是一種仿作沉思或機械式的細節⋯⋯我不是真的要參悟,向大地之美致敬。這畫確實須看來幅印畫。」(李奇登斯坦,節錄自〈羅伊‧李奇登斯坦之中國式山水畫系列〉,展覽目錄,香港藝術館,1997年)

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Ο ◆ ✱16

Property of an Important American Collector

Landscape With Grass

1996
signed and dated 'rF Lichtenstein 96' on the reverse
oil and Magna on canvas
279.9 x 96.9 cm. (110 1/4 x 38 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1996.

Estimate
HK$25,000,000 - 35,000,000 
€3,010,000-4,210,000
$3,210,000-4,490,000

sold for HK$35,480,000

Contact Specialist
Jonathan Crockett
Deputy Chairman, Asia and Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Asia
+852 2318 2023

Sandy Ma
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+852 2318 2025

General Enquiries
+852 2318 2000

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 27 November 2016