Roy Lichtenstein - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 13, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1988

  • Exhibited

    New York, 65 Thompson, Roy Lichtenstein, Bronze Sculpture 1976 - 1989, May 19 - July 1, 1989, no. 31, pp. 80, 89 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 81)
    New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Roy Lichtenstein, October 8, 1993 - September 5, 1994, no. 269, p. 338 (another example exhibited and illustrated)
    Washington, National Gallery of Art, The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection, 1945 to 1995, March 31 - July 21, 1996, no. 99, pp. 121, 249 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 125)
    Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Roy Lichtenstein, May 24 - September 27, 1998, no. 60, p. 113 (another example exhibited)
    Mexico City, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey; Valencia, Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno; A Coruña, Fundación Pedro Barrié de la Maza; Lisbon, Centro Cultural de Belém, Roy Lichtenstein: Imágenes reconocibles: Escultura, pintura y gráfica, July 9 - October 18, 1998, p. 60 (another example exhibited and illustrated); then traveled as Washington, D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Roy Lichtenstein: Sculpture & Drawings, June 5 - September 30, 1999, no. 108, p. 59 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 157)
    London, Gagosian Gallery; New York, Gagosian Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein, Sculpture, June 6 - October 22, 2005, pp. 76, 119 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 77)
    New York, Leo Castelli Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein, Re-Figure, November 4, 2016 – January 28, 2017, p. 25 (another example exhibited and illustrated)

  • Literature

    Mary Lee Corlett, The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein, A Catalogue Raisonné 1948-1993, New York, 1994, p. 206

  • Catalogue Essay

    Remaining in the Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection for over four decades, Roy Lichtenstein’s Brushstroke Head IV (Barcelona Head), 1987, presents the striking precursor to the large-scale public sculpture Barcelona Head, which the artist created as a commission for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Towering over 45 feet tall to this day in the center of Barcelona, it is among the most iconic of Lichtenstein’s sculptures and epitomizes the triumphal return of the female figure in the last decade of the Pop artist's life. With a sly nod to Abstract Expressionism, his own 1960s Pop art idiom and the traditional motif of the female bust, Lichtenstein here puts forth a dynamic sculpture that oscillates between abstraction and representation. A deconstructed female face emerges as the viewer walks around the sculpture, and swooshing brushstrokes and Ben-Day dots give way to forms redolent of eyelashes, an elongated nose, and pouting lips. Executed in 1987 in an edition of six, this work represents the culmination of a series of four Brushstroke Head iterations that Lichtenstein created as part of his lengthy and exacting process, and the final form for his Barcelona commission.

    Brushstroke Head IV (Barcelona Head) brilliantly expands upon Lichtenstein’s three-dimensional interrogation of the brushstroke motif that he had first commenced in 1981 with Brushstroke Sculpture, an example of which also resided in the Fitermans’s revered collection. Harkening back to his early Brushstroke Paintings from the mid 1960s, Lichtenstein here too subverts the subjectivity of the gestural brushstroke with his trademark graphic line and boldly colored Ben-Day dots, the dot system used in mass-circulation commercial printing. While Lichtenstein zoomed into the very gesture of action painting in direct reaction against – and parody of – the dominating movement of Abstract Expressionism in the 1960s, he returned to the motif in 1981 in sculptural form.

    The present work brilliantly furthers the artist’s early investigations by challenging the primacy of abstract painting and division between artistic media that critics such as Clement Greenberg had espoused. As Jack Cowart observed, “Lichtenstein seems busily deconstructing the language and painterly idioms of Abstract Expressionism to make its artistic medium the actual message… In these brushstroke sculptures it is as if Lichtenstein wanted us to think this is what Franz Kline, as well, might have done had he worked in three dimensions. Clearly this historic appropriation is the case with Lichtenstein's next suite of four Brushstroke Heads, 1987, in editions of six, where he takes de Kooning like face forms and casts them in painted and patinated bronze. Since we already know that de Kooning made sculpture (but not at all like this), we appreciate the conceptual and visual puns all the more" (Jack Cowart, Lichtenstein: Sculptures & Drawings, exh. cat., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999, p. 19).

    While Lichtenstein engaged with different artistic styles and movements throughout his career, Brushstroke Head IV (Barcelona Head) comes from a period where the artist was re-engaging with his very own practice. Embracing a post-modern meta-discourse with artistic precedents, Lichtenstein offers a masterful double loop of appropriation that explores the conventions of art historical precedents – including his own world-famous oeuvre. Indeed, beyond echoing his early Brushstroke paintings, Lichtenstein here also reprises the motif of the female figure that had lain dormant in the preceding decades and would culminate in the 1990s with such works as Woman: Sunlight, Moonlight, 1996. Whereas Lichtenstein’s early “Girl Paintings” were driven by an interest in elevating the clichés and banalities of popular culture, while also exploring notions of reproduction, his exploration of the female figure, starting in the late 1980s, reflects his movement towards the pastiche of established art historical traditions.

    With Brushstroke Head IV (Barcelona Head), Lichtenstein boldly challenges traditional sculptural norms – both through his application of high gloss, vibrant paint upon the revered medium of bronze, and his deconstruction of the female bust. As Hal Foster observed, “The collision of high and low modes is the very strategy of his art, indeed of Pop in general, and here he extends it to sculpture as well: traditional bust meets abstract mannequin, Abstract Expressionist brushstroke meets cartoon sign of the same...if there is a radical edge in Lichtenstein, it lies here: less in his thematic appropriation of comics and the like, and more in his formal reconciliation of lowly contents and high forms" (Hal Foster, Roy Lichtenstein, Sculpture, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2005, p. 10). Lichtenstein’s conception of this work as a precursor to the monumental public sculpture Barcelona Head expands upon this eradicating of boundaries between high and low art. Formally and conceptually complex, Brushstroke Head IV (Barcelona Head) not only demonstrates the core tenets that catapulted Lichtenstein to acclaim in the 1960s, it moreover speaks of an artist in his twilight years relentlessly re-inventing his practice.

Property from the Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection


Brushstroke Head IV (Barcelona Head)

incised with the artist's signature, number and date "© 3/6 rf Lichtenstein '87" and stamped with the Tallix foundry mark on the base
painted and patinated bronze
44 x 20 x 10 in. (111.8 x 50.8 x 25.4 cm.)
Executed in 1987, this work is number 3 from an edition of 6.

$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $800,000

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

20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 13 November 2019