Haystacks

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    The Andy Warhol Collection, New York
    Lang & O'Hara Gallery, Inc., New York
    Galerie Daniel Varenne, Geneva
    Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Video

    Roy Lichtenstein, 'Haystacks', Lot 16

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 14 October

  • Catalogue Essay

    “It’s an industrial way of making Impressionism—or something like it—by a machinelike technique. But it probably takes me ten times as long to do one of the Cathedral or Haystacks paintings as it took Monet to do his” – Roy Lichtenstein

    Painted in Roy Lichtenstein’s idiosyncratic Ben-Day dot method, Haystacks epitomizes the artist’s ability to reenvision the chef-d’oeuvres of Modernism in a Pop lexicon. The work was created after a trip Lichtenstein took to Los Angeles in the summer of 1968, when he visited John Coplans at the Pasadena Art Museum to discuss the curator’s plans for an exhibition on serial imagery. At the museum, Coplans showed Lichtenstein myriad photographs of Claude Monet’s renowned Stacks of Wheat from 1891 and Rouen Cathedral paintings, which immediately encouraged the Pop artist’s own undertaking of 20 pictures in five variations using the former as source material before embarking on a series of the latter, examples from which are held in preeminent institutions such as the San Francisco Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Haystacks takes its place among Lichtenstein’s other interpretations of the masterpieces of Modernism: he also applied his painstaking, distinctive dot process to the paintings of Piet Mondrian and Pablo Picasso in Non-Object I, 1964, and Femme d’Alger, 1963, both at the Broad Collection, Los Angeles. Haystacks thus reinvents Monet’s work for the 20th century, appropriating the treasures of the past by executing them in the artistic style of his present.

    During this pivotal stroll with Coplans where he was exposed to numerous reproductions of Monet’s work in succession, Lichtenstein visually comprehended the Impressionist’s propensity to paint in series. This practice no doubt appealed to Lichtenstein’s predilection for seriality, who then became intrigued in the inherent paradox of a calculated approach to Impressionism. Consequently, he embarked on a chapter of producing paintings derived from Monet’s Haystacks before taking this interest in repetition even a step further by running a series of prints of the same subject the year after. Lichtenstein elucidated the painterly method behind Haystacks to Coplans: “It’s an industrial way of making Impressionism—or something like it—by a machinelike technique. But it probably takes me ten times as long to do one of the Cathedral or Haystacks paintings as it took Monet to do his” (Roy Lichtenstein, quoted in John Coplans, Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1972, p. 102). By drawing this counterintuitive comparison, Lichtenstein testified to the laboriously meticulous process behind Haystacks' appearance of seemingly impersonality, and that the mechanization of artistic procedure can actually be used as a means of achieving a high finish.

    The result of this extremely methodical manner of production, meant to efface any indication of the artist’s hand, is an unperturbed, balanced surface. In this sense, while Monet’s original paintings were optical, subjective depictions of the play of light, Haystacks portrays the automation of the artistic process in the same vein as color reproduction. Typical of his working process, Lichtenstein reproduced the original image by hand before he and his assistants traced his sketch onto the canvas with the help of a projector. Then, they painted the large Ben-Day dots, but instead of featuring Lichtenstein’s customary jet black contours to define shapes and figures, Haystacks’ forms are defined by the concentration of the dots themselves and its resulting illusionistic inversion of red and white. Thus, though Haystacks is more a manifestation of Lichtenstein’s interest in the relationship between flatness and shapes than of the inextricability of color and light, the all-over application of Ben-Day dots and undefined forms still hint at the acute visual sensibility present in the Stacks of Wheat paintings. According to art historian and curator Diane Waldman, by “translating Monet’s subtle arrangements of color into Ben-Day dots in primary colors, Lichtenstein kept the dots just below the level of recognition as discrete forms, and thus came extraordinarily close to capturing Monet’s Impressionist effects” (Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1993, pp. 146-147).

    Given its late 19th-century source material, it is possible to read the Ben-Day dots in Haystacks as a nod to pointillism: that in approaching Monet via Georges Seurat, Lichtenstein’s tongue-in-cheek interpretation of Impressionism was actually two-fold. Regardless, Lichtenstein’s homage to this chapter in art history in Haystacks captures the innovative spirit of two artists who—despite working 70 years apart—were each pioneering in their respective times; in facilitating this dialogue between Modernism and Postmodernism, Lichtenstein made the old new again. “Beginning with a specific subject, he arrived at a general or ideal image,” Waldman concluded. “In doing so, he presented us with one of the most consistent and original statements of the 1960s” (Roy Lichtenstein, quoted in Roy Lichtenstein, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1993, p. 147).

Ο ◆16

A Discerning Vision Property from an Important Private Collection

Haystacks

signed and dated "rf Lichtenstein '68" on the reverse
oil on canvas
16 x 24 in. (40.6 x 61 cm.)
Painted in 1968.

Estimate
$500,000 - 700,000 

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Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2019