Roy Lichtenstein - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Thursday, June 24, 2021 | Phillips

  • Nearly 40 years after skyrocketing to fame for his idiosyncratic Pop vernacular, Roy Lichtenstein masterfully employed his iconic cartoon-strip style to a quiet domestic scene in Collage for Interior with Painting and Still Life, 1997. Created in the final year of the artist’s life, this superb work is emblematic of the artist’s mature approach, executed during a time when Lichtenstein was reflecting on his own career as well as the history of art at large. Unlike the comic book subjects and cartoon iconography that he took as subject in his early paintings, this still life and interior scene features timeless tropes that have reappeared throughout art history for centuries. From Pablo Picasso—an artist who Lichtenstein unabashedly admired—to Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne, the great figurative masters of modernism all revisited traditional genres to new aesthetic and conceptual ends. First galvanized to embark upon a series of interior scenes while flipping through a phone book, Lichtenstein masterfully captured the spirit of America during the second half of the 20th century in this important series by applying his Pop principles and ubiquitous contemporary iconography to age-old themes. 



    Pop Processes Decoded  


    Lichtenstein developed his distinct Pop idiom by adopting the appearance of the printed imagery of consumer culture in post-war America. Widely known for his humor and irony, Lichtenstein devised a visual language in which his utterly unique and highly recognizable style consciously mimicked the generality of mass-produced materials. In Collage for Interior with Painting, Lichtenstein’s characteristic Ben-Day dots recall the printing techniques used for mid-century advertisements, and his signature hard-edge line appears to have been rendered with mechanical precision. Along with his contemporaries, including Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and Tom Wesselmann, Lichtenstein was rebelling against the high modernism preached by the critics of Abstract Expressionism, who exalted the primacy of the artist’s hand and the mutual exclusion of kitsch and fine art. Lichtenstein went against the grain, radically seeking to remove any trace of his own hand in his works and incorporating iconography from everyday life into his work.  

    "There are certain things that are usable, forceful, and vital about commercial art."
    —Roy Lichtenstein
    In Lichtenstein’s works, which involve a process painstakingly perfected through a series of sketches and collages, all suggestions of their handmade quality and the methodology underlying the final composition are eradicated. His preparatory works, such as Collage for Interior with Painting, offer a unique window into the Pop master’s process, revealing the ironically handcrafted quality of his work and the systematic planning which allow the paintings to appear effortless and mechanical. Layers of tape, cut paper, and graphite markings in the present work unveil the guarded secrets of Lichtenstein’s compositions, granting the viewer a greater understanding of the artist’s process and practice.  


    Girls’ Romances #81, January 1962.

    Lichtenstein’s practice itself was even based on the principles of collage, as he found the subject for his paintings by culling disparate images from comic books, advertisements, and other visual media from popular culture. In Collage for Interior with Painting, Lichtenstein integrates his comic book source imagery with greater subtlety than in his early works. Sourced from Girls Romance, the woman in the present work is the subject of a painting within a painting: rather than establishing her as the main focal point of the imagery, he sequesters her to the background, giving her the same importance as the box, chair, and other compositional elements. Perhaps this positioning is a subtle nod to his early works in which appropriated cartoons figures were at centerstage, and the painting is intended as a quotation of an earlier one of Lichtenstein’s.


    Lichtenstein’s Interiors  


    Although partly drawing from his earlier Artist’s Studio series, Lichtenstein’s inspiration for his Interiors series ultimately was born from his time as an artist-in-residence at the American Academy of Rome in 1989. Unable to speak Italian, Lichtenstein connected with the city by passing the time flipping through local phone books. While perusing the pages, Lichtenstein began to tear out the advertisements and collected them in his notebooks. These advertisements featured bare and banal representations of furniture and home décor that would become the source material for this new series. The irony that such unembellished renderings of consumer goods proved so successful in compelling potential purchasers would have been the perfect inspiration for Lichtenstein to pick up his brush and begin a series where these ordinary little drawings were the stars. 


    Roy Lichtenstein, Drawing for Interior with Painting and Still Life, 1997. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

    As seen in the spectacular painting Interior with African Mask, 1991, The Broad, Los Angeles, one of Lichtenstein’s earlier interiors, the bland source material drawn from the Yellow Pages was transformed by the artist’s lively colors, dots, and lines. The Interiors commonly feature famous works of art or his own masterpieces, a nod to the self-referential device used by Matisse in his Red Studio that had previously inspired Lichtenstein’s Artist’s Studio series. Like most other works from the series, Interior with African Mask is characterized by glamorous allure that recalls the editorial spreads of magazines such as Architectural Digest. In the present work, however, Lichtenstein abandoned the fashionable glitz of his earlier interiors in favor of an intimate and serene scene that, even in its highly stylized Pop idiom, expresses an experience of domesticity that touches on a feeling shared by all people across time and place. 


    Reconciling the Abstract Expressionist notion of the painting as a hyper-flat surface with the visual iconography of mass culture, Lichtenstein’s iconoclastic approach to artmaking played a pivotal role in bridging the art of today with the modern masters that preceded him. In Collage for Interior with Painting, the realm of ubiquity becomes intertwined with so-called “fine art.” Like the great masters of modernism and postmodernism, from Marcel Duchamp to Robert Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein’s practice was based in playfully breaking down dichotomies. In the present work, a domestic scene that depicts the world of the everyday, Lichtenstein made a tongue-and-cheek statement that mass consumer culture, fine art, and life are inextricably linked—an assertion that his art embodied from the beginning and maintained until the end.  

    • Provenance

      Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
      Anthony D'Offay Gallery, London
      Galerie Lawrence Rubin, Zurich
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in August 1997

    • Literature

      Roy Lichtenstein: New Paintings, exh. cat., Galerie Lawrence Rubin, Zurich, 1997, p. 6 (detail illustrated, p. 7)

Property from an Important New York Estate


Collage for Interior with Painting and Still Life

signed and dated "rf Lichtenstein '97" on the reverse
tape, graphite, painted and printed paper collage on board
image 31 3/4 x 27 7/8 in. (80.6 x 70.8 cm)
board 38 1/2 x 33 7/8 in. (97.8 x 86 cm)

Executed in 1997.

Full Cataloguing

$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for $1,421,500

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 24 June 2021