Robert Indiana - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, June 7, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “Love is a noun and a verb and so one must decide what my love is. It’s a command, love, and it’s a subject, love. It is an exercise, and grammar is one of my favourite subjects.” — Robert Indiana

    Bold, vibrant and deceptively simple, Robert Indiana’s ‘LOVE’ composition is one of the most recognisable artistic arrangements of the twentieth century. Consisting of four capital letters stacked in a perfectly square format with a distinctively tilted ‘O’, this singular motif has come to define the prominent American Pop artist, and features repeatedly across his prints, paintings and public sculptures.


    Robert Indiana's "Love" sculpture, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Image: Zoë Peate / Alamy Stock Photo, Artwork: © 2023 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

    Indiana began to explore the power of language in his artworks during the early 1960s. ‘LOVE’ first featured in a 1961 painting titled 4-Star Love, with the text stencilled across the bottom of the canvas in a linear fashion. Clearly fascinated with the creative possibilities offered by the word, the artist continued to experiment with the arrangement of the four letters in informal rubbings of red coloured pencil on paper. In 1965, the now-instantly recognisable composition was finalised and first disseminated to the public as a Christmas card commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art. Rendered in Indiana’s signature hard-edged style of block colours and sharp lines – an aesthetic indebted to his partner at the time, the artist Ellsworth Kelly - the design subsequently became one of the museum’s most lucrative cards and the image was informally adopted as an emblem of the ‘Love Generation’.

    “…what I’m doing is equating my paintings with my poetry. In other words they are concrete. The LOVE is a concrete poem as far as I’m concerned. Just a one word poem.” — Robert Indiana

    The Book of Love, created in 1996, is Indiana’s most elaborate project focused on his iconic motif, with the artist reworking the image through a total of twelve different colourways, each accompanied by one of his poems. Bestowed titles such as “When the Word is Love”, “To Draw a Straight Line”, and “Wherefore the Punctuation of the Heart”, Indiana’s poems are an ekphrastic description of love: the noun, the verb, the screenprints. Displayed together, the artist manifests love as object and idea with his screenprints and poems perfectly encapsulating Indiana’s lifelong interest in combining language with abstraction.

    “It’s always been a matter of impact, the relationship of colour to colour and word to shape and word to complete the piece – both the literal and visual aspects. I’m most concerned with the force of its impact.”
    —Robert Indiana

    The allure of Indiana’s striking ‘LOVE’ composition continues to resonate with viewers around the world: over fifty sculptures featuring the iconic formation are positioned in public spaces across the globe. While the simple geometry of the design is a key factor in the composition’s success, the importance of language is highlighted by more recent iterations of the sculpture which translate the word ‘LOVE’ into Hebrew (‘אהבה’) and Spanish (‘AMOR’), once again emphasising the extensive reach and enduring impact of the late American artist’s arrangement.




The Book of Love

The complete set of 12 screenprints in colours and 12 accompanying poems with embossing, on A.N.W. Crestwood Museum paper, with full margins, with colophon, the sheets loose (as issued), all contained in the original beige paper-covered folio with printed title.
all I. 46.2 x 45.7 cm (18 1/4 x 17 7/8 in.)
all S. 61 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in.)
folio 66 x 52 x 2 cm (25 7/8 x 20 1/2 x 3/4 in.)

The prints all signed, dated, and numbered 66/200 in pencil, the poems and colophon all signed and numbered in pencil (there were also 15 artist's proof sets in Arabic numerals and 50 sets in Roman numerals), published by American Image Editions, New York, all unframed.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £158,750

Contact Specialist
+44 20 7318 4091

Rebecca Tooby-Desmond
Specialist, Head of Sale, Editions

Robert Kennan
Head of Editions, Europe

Anne Schneider-Wilson
Senior International Specialist, Editions

Louisa Earl
Associate Specialist, Editions

Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 7 - 8 June 2023