Girl in Mirror

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  • Provenance

    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Charles H. Carpenter, New Canaan (acquired from the above on 15 December 1964)
    O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York
    Max Palevsky Collection, California (acquired from the above in 1973)
    Thence by decent
    Christie's, New York, 10 November 2010, lot 45
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Leo Castelli Gallery, Works by Bontecou, Chamberlain, Daphnis, Higgins, Johns, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, Scarpitta, Stella, Twombly, Tworkov, June 1964 (another example exhibited)
    Kansas City, Nelson Gallery and Atkins Museum of Fine Arts, Kansas City Collects: A Selection of Works of Art Privately Owned in the Greater Kansas City Area, January - February 1965 (another example exhibited)
    London, The Tate Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein, 6 January - 4 February 1968, no. 48, p. 51 (another example exhibited)
    Washington D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Twentieth Century American Artists, 23 October - 21 November 1971, no. 50, n.p. (another example exhibited, numbered from an edition of 5)
    Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, American Art in Belgium, 25 May - 28 August 1977, no. 83, p. 80 (another example exhibited and illustrated)
    Fort Collins, Colorado State University, Roy Lichtenstein at Colorado State University, 1 - 30 April 1982, no. 7, pp. 2, 13 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 13)
    Aspen Institute, Roy Lichtenstein, July - September 1997 (another example exhibited)
    Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Collects Lichtenstein, 20 January - 14 May 2000, no. 20 (another example exhibited and illustrated)
    Rome, Chiostro del Bramante (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 103, no. 45); Milan, Padiglione di Arte Contemporanea; Trieste, Museo Revoltella; Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum (another example exhibited and illustrated, cover), Roy Lichtenstein, Riflessi-Reflections, December 1999 - January 2001
    New York, Gagosian Gallery, Lichtenstein: Girls, 12 May - 28 June 2008, p. 63 (another example exhibited and illustrated)

  • Literature

    Ellen Johnson, "The Image Duplicators-Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg and Warhol," Canadian Art, vol. 23, no. 1, January 1966, p. 12 (another example illustrated)
    Alberto Boatto and Giordano Falzoni, eds., Lichtenstein, Rome, 1966 (another example illustrated, cover)
    Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1971, no. 114, n.p. (another example illustrated, numbered from an edition of 6)
    Roy Lichtenstein, 1970-1980, exh. cat., The Saint Louis Art Museum; Seattle Art Museum; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Fort Worth Art Museum, 1981, p. 16 (another example illustrated)
    Leo Castelli Gentle Snapshots, exh. cat., Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich, Summer 1982, n.p. (illustrated)
    Contemporary Great Masters: Roy Lichtenstein, Tokyo, 1992, pl. 5, n.p, p. 93 (another example illustrated, n.p.)
    Aaron Betsky, Three California Houses: The Homes of Max Palevsky, New York, 2002, p. 80 (illustrated, inside back cover)
    Michael Lobel, Image Duplicator Roy Lichtenstein and the Emergence of Pop Art, New Haven / London, 2002, fig. 84, pp. 132, 135, 139, 164 (another example illustrated, p. 135, numbered edition of 6)
    Linda Hales, 'A Visual Conversation', Home & Design Magazine, November - December 2007, online
    'Roy Lichtenstein at Gagosian', The New York Times, 10 June 2008, online (another example illustrated)
    Roy Lichtenstein Reflected, exh. cat., Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, 2010, pp. 52-53 (another example illustrated)
    Diane Solway, 'Art, Drugs, And Rock 'N' Roll', W Magazine, 1 November 2010, online (illustrated)
    Judicaël Lavrador, “Sous l'exubérance des toiles, une précision maniaque”, Beaux Arts, 2013, pp. 18-19 (another example illustrated)

  • Video

    'Girl in Mirror' | Roy Lichtenstein

    Senior advisor Hugues Joffre discusses how Roy Lichtenstein explores the art historical symbol of the mirror in 'Girl in Mirror' to raise questions about the ideals of contemporary culture.

  • Catalogue Essay

    In Girl in Mirror, 1964, an important and early work by Roy Lichtenstein, the artist presents the iconic portrait of a graceful blonde woman framed within the constraints of a handheld mirror. Seized from the skewed, aspirational female heroines that populate the worlds of cinema and comics, the girl’s generic appearance is at once aesthetically seductive and conceptually radical, raising questions on the fabricated ideals of consumer culture. Propelled to fame through his first one-man exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery, New York in 1962, from where the present work was initially acquired in 1964, Lichtenstein brought commercial imagery into the gallery space. Previously housed in the notable collections of Max Palevsky and Charles H. Carpenter, and with an extensive and notable exhibition history in the most prominent institutions worldwide, Girl in Mirror is a significant work that captures the crux of Lichtenstein’s painterly oeuvre, idiosyncratically composed of Ben-Day dots and revolving around themes of American affluence, commercialism and consumption.

    Between 1961 and 1965 Lichtenstein created a cycle of paintings centred on stills from advertisements, and love and war comic strips. The present work, from 1964, is an important early example of the imagery that has become synonymous with the artist’s name. Working amidst advanced printing methods, and drawing from the pungent nostalgia and rampant commercialism of the 1964 World Fair taking place in New York, Girl in Mirror engages in the continuous debate on the relationship between high art and mass culture, whilst simultaneously touching on the politics of gendered representation. Executed in the same year as the fair, for which Roy Lichtenstein had created a twenty-four-foot mural of a laughing female figure, the present work is in dialogue with an easily identifiable female trope that the artist deployed throughout his career, and of which the iconographic predictability emulates the immediacy with which we assume the formal diktats of popular culture.

    Forming part of the artist’s celebrated group of Girl works from the 1960s, the present work is firmly rooted in the seminal foundations of Pop art. Concerned with the phenomena of self-objectification and voyeurism within mass media, Girl in Mirror serves as a potent commentary on the pixelated ideals of the role of young women within contemporary society, and the all-too-framing force of the male gaze. As noted by curator Diane Waldman, the female protagonists, ‘are to Lichtenstein what Liz and Marilyn were to Warhol, our society’s clichés, though without any true identity of their own. They are products of a culture that puts celluloid glamour and consumer objects before human dignity or collective achievement’ (Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1993, p. 117). Taking the comic strip and commercial imagery as his point of departure, and painting radical re-evaluations of images that populate our collective unconscious, Lichtenstein's Girl paintings represent a provocative affront to artistic creation. Raising questions of legitimacy and transformation, the artist’s compositions were rendered all-the-more urgent and transgressive by the impending threat of kitsch onto fine art in the 1960s.

    Commenting on his fascination with comic book imagery, in his first published interview in 1963, the artist noted that he had turned to comics because of their ‘possibilities for painting’ and that the comic book artist ‘intends to depict and I intend to unify…I use [comic book scenes] for purely formal reasons’ (Roy Lichtenstein, quoted in Alan Solomon, ‘Conversation with Lichtenstein,’ Fantazaria, July-August, 1966). Developed from unknown source imagery, the present work, resembles a later clipping from a 1967 issue of Secret Hearts magazine, underlining the notion that Lichtenstein’s work harnessed the cultural saturation of popular imagery. Two closely related preparatory sketches for the present work unveil the process of the artist’s meticulous composition, having experimented with a reversal before settling on the present orientation.

    Dexterously manipulating popular images since the 1960s, Lichtenstein became increasingly interested in the optically and intellectually intriguing subject of mirrors. Revelling in the appearance of her own reflection, the girl in the present work tilts her head in a manner that perfectly reveals her carefully traced eyes, flawless red lips and pristinely styled locks. Her strategic positioning facilitates a possessively inclined gaze: the character’s tangible locks of hair are of immediate access whilst her facial features are equally visible. Through the mirror, often perceived as a metaphor for the complexity and multiplicity of perspective, Lichtenstein enters a discourse of sharp contemporary relevance. ‘Inspired by their cursory renderings, he began to take photographs of cosmetic mirrors used to magnify there face in which he noticed patterns that were already abstract of discovered shapes, shadows, and reflections that he liked. He was interested not in a clear image reflected in a mirror but in images that did not reflect exactly’ (Diane Waldman, quoted in Roy Lichtenstein Riflessi-Reflections, exh. cat., Chiostro del Bramante, Rome, 1999, p. 33).

    Referencing an object loaded with significant literary and art historical precedent, Lichtenstein invokes centuries of artistic and cultural tradition. The mirror alludes to the theatrical compositions envisaged by the Old Masters, the highly curated Mannerist and Baroque canvases, whilst simultaneously recalling strategic methods of illusion employed by the likes of Pablo Picasso, René Magritte, André Breton and Michelangelo Pistoletto. Conveying surrealist metaphors, a discursive vernacular, and magical realism alike, the mirror carries with it the politics surrounding subjects of representation.

    With Ben-Day dots, Lichtenstein not only shifted tenets of representation in painting, but also achieved potent dualism, bringing pictures simultaneously closer and further from reality. Using the reflective device as a visual axis through which to portray the protagonist, the artist allows straight slices of image to fracture an otherwise continuous composition. Referencing philosophy and art history, the subject of the mirror held technical challenges for Lichtenstein. Musing on the motif, he noted ‘There’s no simple way to draw a mirror, so cartoonists invented dashed or diagonal lines to signify mirror. Now, you see those lines and you know it means mirror, even though there are obviously no such lines in reality. If you put horizontal, instead of diagonal, lines across the same object, it wouldn’t say 'mirror’ (Roy Lichtenstein, quoted in Michael Kimmelman, PORTRAITS, Talking with Artists at the Met, The Modern, The Louvre and Elsewhere, www.lichtensteinfoundation.org, online). Through the recurring theme of projection and reflection, Lichtenstein developed a graphic idiom that traces light activity and distinguishes between the fore- and back-ground.

    One of the earliest works which the artist executed in porcelain enamel on steel, Girl in Mirror challenges the relationship between subject and object. Belonging to only three other square editioned works in boasting both the same subject and medium, the present work is a rare graphic spectacle. Recognising the significance of medium in achieving his clean, unified aesthetic and presenting the primacy of the image itself, Lichtenstein’s ground-breaking adoption of enamel porcelain ‘reinforced the look of mechanical perfection that paint could only simulate but not duplicate and it provided the perfect opportunity to make an ephemeral form concrete’ (Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1971, p. 23). Eschewing the evidence of the artist’s hand, aside from subtle variations in the surface with the rigid black outlines of the figure and mirror, the highly glossy, almost reflective, surface of the present work replicates the smooth surface of the mirror within the work itself.

    Inspired by, and appropriating, the spatial arrangement, flattened plane and bold palette of Piet Mondrian’s neo-plastic style, Lichtenstein realised a modernist brand of pop. Combining the striking, bold tones of Mondrian’s compositions with the popular imagery of advertising and comics, the present work, alongside other early works, harnesses Mondrian’s unity of space and flattened effect. The painting’s metallic support, however, manifests a three-dimensional aspect that instils the composition with additional complexity. The foregrounded image is executed on the same plane as the reflection, yet with insistent outlines and unmodulated colours, the work straddles dimensionality. Playing on this compositional illusion, the swirling tresses of the female figure pre-empt the artist’s iconic depictions of gestural brushstrokes that he would commence in 1965. Lichtenstein’s graphic comment on the eminent content and laden gesture of the Abstract Expressionists objectifies the brushstroke as an emblem, touching on fundamental beliefs of artistic creation.

    With identical dimensions and colour scheme, Girl in Mirror shares semiotic importance with Vicki! I--I Thought I Heard Your Voice!, of the same year. In Vicki! I--I Thought I Heard Your Voice!, the hand, head, neck and shoulder of a male figure frame the face of the female protagonist, in ways that are redolent of the figural positioning within the present work. Both melodramatic and emotional, these two works fit within the thinly veiled stereotype of gender roles of 1950s and 60s American society. Through framing devices and reflective surfaces, Lichtenstein forges a sense of removal from the central characters. The female lead in the present work is further depersonalised, remaining nameless as the anonymous ‘Girl’: ‘In isolating the female figure from her original context, Lichtenstein further magnifies society's codification of women as ornaments, positioned for the male gaze only’ (Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (and travelling), 1993-1994, p. 117).

    Celebrating the remarkable possibilities of popular imagery, Girl in Mirror epitomises Lichtenstein’s iconic and enduring style. At the heart of the artist’s legacy, the present work balances simplicity and sophistication. On the ingenuity of the artist Robert Hughes mused, ‘He has become the great academician of the Pop movement…You can’t imagine people asking themselves with bated breath, ‘What will Lichtenstein do next?’ You know the answer, although the exact image he will do it to is as yet unknown. It will be done very well, probably on a huge canvas, with perfect decorum and an unfaltering sense of design, every black line in its right place, not a slippage in the stripes and Benday dots’ (Robert Hughes, quoted in Michael Lobel, Image Duplicator Roy Lichtenstein and the Emergence of Pop Art, New Haven / London, 2002, p. 23).

Ο10

Property from an Important Private Collection

Girl in Mirror

signed, numbered and dated 'rf Lichtenstein 3/8 1964' on the reverse
porcelain enamel on steel
106.6 x 106.6 cm (41 7/8 x 41 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1964, this work is number 3 from an edition of 8 plus 2 artist's proofs, and is included in The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation's online works listing.

Estimate
£4,500,000 - 6,500,000 

sold for £4,800,000

Contact Specialist
Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060 rwiden@phillips.com

20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 7 March 2019