Roy Lichtenstein - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, October 19, 2021 | Phillips

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  • The 11 Pop Artists portfolios were a new center of gravity in America’s art history. These edgy compilations of fresh prints from then-emerging artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann, among others, launched new dialogues as artists engaged printmaking as a way to broadcast novel ideas more broadly. From 11 Pop Artists Volume II and III respectively, Reverie, lot 51, and Sweet Dreams Baby!, lot 53, signaled the meteoric rise of Roy Lichtenstein and endured as two of the greatest prizes in all Post-War printmaking.


    Mature and masterful, these images belied any notion that contributions to the 11 Pop Artists portfolios were Lichtenstein’s experimental forays into printmaking. Reverie and Sweet Dreams Baby! demonstrated that years of experimentation preceded such ingenious screenprints. In 1948 a seminal exhibition of prints arrived in Cleveland and that same year Lichtenstein took up printmaking while a student at Ohio State University. Making more than 30 editions between 1948 and 1959 that he printed, Lichtenstein learned the techniques of etching, aquatint, lithography, drypoint, screenprint and woodcut. He participated in the whole life cycle of Reverie and Sweet Dreams Baby!, working from preparatory drawings to printing and proofing. A long history with prints notwithstanding, Lichtenstein regarded his contributions to the 11 Pop Artists portfolios as his very first fine art prints, the culmination of years spent preparing.

    Reverie mothered a visual vocabulary that democratized art history. Its face was familiar to many; from the 1964 comic Secret Heart, the central figure was an avatar for new collectors who were backed by rapid economic expansion in Post-War America. Reproductive techniques and regularized colors more typical of commercial printing delivered a recognizable and conventionally pretty picture that launched previously discredited “cartoon” imagery back into art history. Lichtenstein’s musings on popular imagery sidelined any ongoing notions that art should remain cloistered with obfuscated meaning. Lichtenstein recalled, “There is a relationship between cartooning and people like Miró and Picasso,” and, “I want [my subjects] to come through with the immediate impact of the comics.” If Reverie interrupted Post-War aesthetics politely then Sweet Dreams Baby! delivered a final blow to legacies of the 19th century. “Art since Cézanne,” Lichtenstein noted “has become extremely romantic and unrealistic . . . it has less and less to do with the world.” Regarding some of his contemporaries, such as the Abstract Expressionists, as the present-day incarnation of such sentimentalism, Lichtenstein came out swinging.

    • Provenance

      Helga and Walther Lauffs, Bad Honnef, Germany
      Sotheby's, New York, Prints, October 31, 2008, lot 479
      Private Collection, acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Mary Lee Corlett 38

    • Artist Biography

      Roy Lichtenstein

      One of the most influential and innovative American artists of the post-war period, Roy Lichtenstein ushered in the prominence of Pop Art through his high-impact representations of consumer imagery, common entertainment, and the accoutrements of contemporary life rendered in the Ben-Day dots of contemporary comic strips. Central to Lichtenstein’s practice was parody, which enabled the artist to engage with often-disparaged commercial source imagery from an ironic distance as he considered the nature of the banal and probed the boundaries of what fine art could be.


      While Lichtenstein’s early Pop work cemented his status as one of the main figures of one of the most iconic and original movements of postmodernism, he continued to develop his practice over the course of the following decades until his death in 1997. Retaining his characteristic comic style and ironic distance, Lichtenstein engaged new and disparate influences from Abstract Expressionism to Chinese landscape painting to evolve the subject of his own work and consider the contradictions of representation, style, and substance. Lichtenstein is a central figure in the 20th century art historical canon and accordingly his work is represented in the collections of major museums worldwide, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate, London; and Centre Pompidou, Paris.

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Reverie, from 11 Pop Artists, Volume II (C. 38)

Screenprint in colors, on smooth wove paper, with full margins.
I. 27 1/8 x 23 in. (68.9 x 58.4 cm)
S. 30 x 24 in. (76.2 x 61 cm)

Signed and numbered 10/200 in pencil (there were also 50 copies in Roman numerals and approximately 5 artist's proofs), with the 'Sammlung Lauffs' inkstamp and annotated 'L 51/1968' in pencil on the reverse, published by Original Editions, New York, framed.

Full Cataloguing

$120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for $201,600

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Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 19-21 October 2021