Roy Lichtenstein - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 17, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Girl in Mirror, 1964, encapsulates Roy Lichtenstein’s innovative Pop aesthetic. Executed in porcelain enamel on steel, the work depicts an idealized blonde woman smiling at her reflection in a mirror. The work adheres to Lichtenstein’s intentionally limited palette of primary red, yellow, black, and white, with red Ben-Day dots to articulate the woman’s skin tone. The present work dates to the peak of Lichtenstein’s investigation of Pop aesthetics in the early 1960s; beneath its shiny surface, however, Girl in Mirror provides a trenchant commentary on commodification and femininity in the early 1960s.


    Lichtenstein is best known for his cartoon-based approach to Pop Art, whereby, in a proto-Appropriationist move, he based his compositions on panels from newspaper cartoons and comic books. The young woman of Girl in Mirror recalls characters like Betty Cooper from Archie, and fashion comics such as Katy Keene aimed at young female audiences. Beyond the aesthetics of comic book art, however, the composition of Girl in Mirror reveals the strictures of performing femininity in the United States in the early 1960s.


    Velázquez, The Toilet of Venus (the Rokeby Venus), 1647-1651. The National Gallery, London. Image: © National Gallery, London / Art Resource, NY


    Within Girl in Mirror, the girl’s face is only visible in the cosmetic mirror she holds towards the viewer, a compositional move which places the visual interest on her body, rather than her face—the girl herself is, quite literally, in the mirror. Her blonde hair, which dominates the left half of the composition, is intentionally artificial, its classic 1960s swoop echoing the curve of the mirror. Even her hand is perfectly manicured, to an unreal degree. As Lichtenstein explained, the artificiality of his characters is part of his artistic experiment.

    “Female stereotypes of the postwar era…are to Lichtenstein what Liz and Marilyn were to Warhol, our society's clichés, though without any true identity of their own. They are products of a culture that puts celluloid glamour and consumer objects before human dignity or collective achievement."
    —Diane Waldman

    In Lichtenstein’s hand, his female protagonist is part of the surface—“the kind of girls I painted were really made up of black lines and red dots,” he said. He sees them “that abstractly;” for Lichtenstein, there’s a clear distinction between real women and cartoon women, but he also plays with the ways in which beauty standards and art(ifice) distort our perception of the human form.i Within Girl in Mirror, the female form, especially the made-up, make-believe woman of 1960s cartoons, is simply that: a form, a figure to play with on the painted surface, not unlike the brushstrokes of Lichtenstein’s Abstract Expressionist peers. His wife, Dorothy, corroborated this, explaining how her husband rotated his work on the easel, so that the formal elements of the painting were effective, no matter the work’s orientation.ii


    Willem de Kooning, Door to the River, 1960. The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Image: © Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2023 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 


    With Girl in Mirror, Lichtenstein engages the long history of pairing beautiful women with mirrors in Western art. Taken together, the visual elements of Girl in Mirror embody the theme of vanitas, or (the futility of) vanity, which Lichtenstein, working in the post-War, consumerist boom of mid-century America, surely saw reflected in the world around him. The second wave of feminism was still in its infancy when Girl in Mirror was created, with Betty Freidan’s seminal The Feminine Mystique only published one year prior. Akin to Lichtenstein’s New York World’s Fair mural of the same year, Girl in Mirror interrogates themes of vanity, surface, and the commodification of the self, the hallmarks of Lichtenstein’s strongest period of Pop art.


    Piet Mondrian, Opposition of Lines, Red and Yellow, 1937. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Image: A.E. Gallatin Collection / Bridgeman Images


    Lichtenstein’s use of Ben-Day dots in Girl in Mirror provides duly formal and symbolic meaning. The Ben-Day dot is a printing technique, popularized at the turn of the 20th century, used to inexpensively add color to newspaper illustrations, particularly cartoons. Over time, cartoonists adapted to the process, and soon began to dot their own work to represent shading and depth; the mechanical process thus becomes an aesthetic choice. As Roberta Smith writes, Lichtenstein’s Ben-Day dots make the work “both more and less artificial;” they not only “signify mechanical reproduction, but they also add suggestions of light and reflection, shifting colors and variations.”iii In other words, the shifting quality of Ben-Day can recall the effect of viewing one’s reflection from varying angles; the idiosyncrasy of their application in Girl in Mirror to the girl’s face and hand suggesting variations in texture, a glimpse of humanity in an intentionally flat and industrial surface.


    Beyond subject matter and technique, Lichtenstein’s material choices for Girl in Mirror are emblematic, as well. The work is made of steel and porcelain enamel, two materials is closely tied to the advent of modernity in the Industrial Revolution; Lichtenstein’s modern America, so ironically captured by his Pop sensibility in Girl with Mirror, could not exist without the very materials of the present work. The shiny surface of Girl in Mirror holds the reflection of the material foundations of the 20th century up to the viewer.



    i Roy Lichtenstein, quoted in “Girls,” Gagosian, 2008, online.

    ii Roberta Smith, “The Painter Who Adored Women,” The New York Times, Jun. 11, 2008.

    iii Ibid.

    • Provenance

      Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
      Private Collection (acquired from the above in December 1964)
      Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (acquired from the above in 1979)
      Gabriel Levinas, Buenos Aires (acquired from the above in 1980)
      Leo Castelli Gallery, New York and Peder Bonnier, Inc.
      Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1983)
      Gagosian Gallery, New York
      Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above in 2009)
      Gagosian Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2019

    • Exhibited

      Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum (no. 48, n.p.); London, The Tate Gallery (no. 48, p. 51); Kunsthalle Bern (no. 43, n.p.; another example illustrated, p. 5); Hannover, Kestner-Gesellschaft (no. 43, p. 52; another example illustrated, p. 88), Roy Lichtenstein, November 4, 1967–May 12, 1968 (another example exhibited)
      Washington D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Ten Years: The Friends of the Corcoran, October 23–November 21, 1971, no. 50, n.p. (another example exhibited; erroneously numbered from an edition of 5)
      Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, American Art in Belgium, May 25–August 28, 1977, no. 83, p. 165 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 80)
      Norfolk, The Chrysler Museum, American Figure Painting 1950-1980, October 17–November 30, 1980, pp. 89, 113 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 97; erroneously dated 1965 and numbered from an edition of 6)
      Fort Collins, Colorado State University, Roy Lichtenstein at Colorado State University, April 1–30, 1982, no. 7, p. 2 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 13)
      Aspen Institute, Roy Lichtenstein, July–September 1997 (another example exhibited)
      Rome, Chiostro del Bramante; Milan, Padiglione di Arte Contemporanea; Trieste, Museo Revoltella; Roy Lichtenstein: Riflessi- Reflections (no. 45, pp. 28-29; another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 103); then traveled as, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Roy Lichtenstein Spiegelbilder 1963-1997 (pp. 15, 39-40; another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 65), December 21, 1999–January 21, 2001
      Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Collects Lichtenstein, January 20–May 14, 2000, no. 20 (another example exhibited)
      New York, Gagosian Gallery, Lichtenstein: Girls, May 12–June 28, 2008, pp. 62, 85 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 63)
      Florence, Museo Novecento, Passione Novecento. Da Paul Klee a Damien Hirst, September 22, 2022–January 8, 2023 (another example exhibited)
      Carbondale, Powers Art Center, American Pop Art, November 29–December 22, 2022 (another example exhibited)

    • Literature

      Ellen H. Johnson, "The Image Duplicators–Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg and Warhol," Canadian Art, vol. XXIII, no. 100, January 1966, p. 12 (another example illustrated)
      “Roy Lichtenstein: Girl in Mirror,” ARTnews Annual, vol. XXXI, New York, October 1966, pl. 54, n.p. (another example illustrated, p. 54)
      Alberto Boatto and Giordano Falzoni, eds., Lichtenstein, Rome, 1966, pp. 18, 56, 94 (another example illustrated on the cover)
      C. H. Waddington, Behind Appearance: A study of relations between painting and the natural sciences in this century, Cambridge, 1970, no. 116, p. 200 (another example illustrated)
      Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1971, no. 114, p. 23 (another example illustrated, n.p.; erroneously numbered from an edition of 6)
      Roy Lichtenstein, 1970-1980, exh. cat., The Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, 1981, pp. 8, 21, 173 (another example illustrated, p. 16)
      Leo Castelli Gentle Snapshots, exh. cat., Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich, 1982, p. 58 (Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, 1965, installation view of another example illustrated)
      Dick Hebdige, Hiding in the Light: On Images and Things, London and New York, 1988, p. 135 (another example illustrated)
      John Yau, “The Phoenix of The Self,” Artforum, vol. XXVII, no. 8, April 1989, p. 151
      Kodansha Ltd., Contemporary Great Masters: Roy Lichtenstein, Tokyo, 1992, pl. 5, pp. 93, 113 (another example illustrated, n.p.; another example illustrated on the title page)
      Aaron Betsky, Three California Houses: The Homes of Max Palevsky, New York, 2002, p. 80 (installation view another example illustrated; installation view in Max Palevsky's home illustrated on the inside back cover)
      Michael Lobel, Image Duplicator: Roy Lichtenstein and the Emergence of Pop Art, New Haven and London, 2002, fig. 84, pp. 132-133, 136, 139, 154, 164 (another example illustrated, p. 135; erroneously numbered from an edition of 6)
      Mary Lee Corlett, The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonné 1948-1997, New York, 2002, p. 33
      Linda Hales, “A Visual Conversation,” Home & Design Magazine, November–December 2007, online (erroneously numbered from an edition of 6)
      “Roy Lichtenstein at Gagosian,” The New York Times, June 10, 2008, online (another example illustrated)
      Diane Solway, “Art, Drugs, And Rock 'N' Roll,” W Magazine, November 1, 2010, online (another example illustrated)
      Roy Lichtenstein Reflected, exh. cat., Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, 2010, pp. 49, 53 (another example illustrated, p. 52)
      Johanna Burton, Sonia Campagnola and Marilyn Minter, Marilyn Minter, New York, 2010, p. 62 (another example illustrated)
      Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 2012, pp. 97, 363
      Judicaël Lavrador, “Sous l'exubérance des toiles, une précision maniaque,” Beaux Arts, Paris, 2013, pp. 18–19 (another example illustrated)
      Elizabeth Stamp, “A Rare Behind-the-Scenes Peek into Roy Lichtenstein’s Creative Process,” Architectural Digest, May 6, 2019, online (another example illustrated)
      Avis Berman, Roy Lichtenstein: The Impossible Collection, New York, 2019, no. 38, p. 192 (illustrated, n.p.)

Private Collection Sold in Benefit of Museu Vassouras, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Girl in Mirror

signed and dated "rf Lichtenstein 1964" on the reverse
porcelain enamel on steel
41 7/8 x 41 7/8 x 1 1/8 in. (106.4 x 106.4 x 2.9 cm)
Executed in 1964, this work is number 1 from an edition of 8 plus 2 artist’s proofs.

Full Cataloguing

$4,500,000 - 5,500,000 

Sold for $5,505,000

Contact Specialist

Carolyn Mayer
Associate Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1206

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2023