Roy Lichtenstein - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 26, 2016 | Phillips

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  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.)

Property of an Important American Collector


Landscape With Grass

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.

HK$25,000,000 - 35,000,000 

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