Roy Lichtenstein - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips
  • “I think a good dealer is also a collector.”
    —Rosa Esman

    Rosa and Aaron Esman assembled an outstanding collection of Modern, Post-War, and Contemporary art over the course of their seventy-year marriage. The collection’s highlights mirror that of Rosa’s career as a gallerist and edition publisher with the strong support of Aaron, a psychoanalyst and passionate collector, with interests in Modernism, Dada, Russian Constructivism, and American Pop Art taking center stage. Rosa began publishing portfolios of prints by contemporary artists in the 1960s. Editions such as the New York Ten Portfolio, 1965, and Ten from Leo Castelli, 1967, which featured works by rising contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Rauschenberg, and helped pioneer the field of artist’s editions and multiples. Her eponymous gallery exhibited in Manhattan for over twenty years, and she was a founding partner of Ubu Gallery, which is still in operation today.


    When asked about her wide artistic tastes in 2009, Rosa emphasized her love of drawing, “the
    quintessential bit of the art,” which can be seen across the Esman collection, regardless of genre.

    Art was one of several passions that Rosa and Aaron shared, even when they began dating in the early 1950s. In 1952, they bought their first artwork together, a drawing by Miró, initiating their shared pursuit of inspired collecting that would continue for the rest of their lives. Rosa recalled: “sometimes we look at something, and I say, ‘Oh, isn’t that marvelous?’ and Aaron would respond, ‘It’s for us.’”i Founded in lifelong love, the Collection of Rosa and Aaron Esman gives a unique vision of the art movements of the 20th century that shaped New York’s art scene.

    “It was op and pop. And it was just anybody who was around whom I liked whom I knew.”
    —Rosa Esman on the creation of the New York Ten Portfolio

    Roy Lichtenstein’s Collage for Seascape is a preparatory study for the New York Ten Portfolio, envisioned and published by Rosa Esman’s Tanglewood Press in 1965. Described by Rosa as a mix of “op and pop” artists, the portfolio  included editioned works by ten New York-based artists whose artistic practices both differed from and complemented one another.ii In addition to Oldenburg and Lichtenstein, the portfolio included works by Tom Wesselmann, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Jim Dine, Helen Frankenthaler, Nicholas Krushenick, Robert Kulicke, Mon Levinson, and George Segal. Each artist created an editioned print of 100 using just three colors, and the portfolio was a huge success, with all prints selling out within six months.

    “I asked [Claes Oldenburg] if he would ever think of doing a print if I would put together a bunch of artists who were compatible with him. And he said sure. So I said, ‘What would you do this for?’ And he said, ‘A bottle of whisky.’ And I thought, well, that sounds easy.”
    —Rosa Esman
    Going on to create a number of other print portfolios, including New York International, 1965-1966, 11 Pop Artists Volumes I, II, and III, 1965-1966, and Ten from Leo Castelli, 1978, Rosa Esman continued innovating and celebrating the artists of the day throughout her career. These portfolios, of which the New York Ten was her first, made contemporary art more approachable and affordable for young collectors like the Esmans themselves.


    A handful of the works in Rosa and Aaron’s collection are the historic and unique originals used in the making of such prints, including Roy Lichtenstein's Collage for Seascape. This collage is an intimate representation of Lichtenstein’s graphic practice and his affinity for using appropriated design and imagery in his works. Textured Rowlux is placed atop a horizon line of blue pigment, beneath which lies an ocean of his signature Benday dots. The result is Lichtenstein’s own, stylized interpretation of a seascape, as imagined by the Pop pioneer.



    i Rosa Esman, interviewed by James McElhinney, "Oral History Interview with Rosa Esman," Archives of American Art, June 9–16, 2009, online.

    ii Ibid.

    • Provenance

      Rosa and Aaron Esman (acquired directly from the artist)
      Thence by descent to the present owners

Property from the Collection of Rosa and Aaron Esman


Collage for Seascape

signed and dated "rf Lichtenstein 1964" on the reverse of the painted sheet
Rowlux and painted paper collage
17 x 22 in. (43.2 x 55.9 cm)
Executed in 1964, this work is the original study for Roy Lichtenstein's print Seascape from the New York Ten portfolio.

Full Cataloguing

$70,000 - 100,000 

Sold for $101,600

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan

Specialist, Head of Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023