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  • Provenance

    O. K. Harris Gallery, New York; Galerie Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf

  • Exhibited

    Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Art and Technology, 1969; Osaka, Japan, World’s Fair, 1970

  • Catalogue Essay

    In 1969, Roy Lichtenstein was selected by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to participate in Art and Technology, an experimental project conceived by Maurice Tuchman involving the interaction of artists and corporations. Lichtenstein collaborated with Universal Studios and independent film-maker Joel Freedman to create an installation that was later selected for exhibition at the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka, Japan. The installation consisted of painted seascapes, including the present lot, Prop for a Film, and included filmed water sequences projected onto a revolutionary type of rear projection screen developed specifically for the piece.
    Spanning nearly two-and-a-half-metres, Prop for a Film is one of the most radical and monumental paintings Roy Lichtenstein ever executed. Ever the innovator, his aim was to discover just how far he could reduce the constituent elements of the landscape and still retain the semblance of a figurative image. The source for these landscape and seascape paintings differs from that of Lichtenstein’s comic strips, in that he was essentially working from life and much less from appropriated sources. He depicted nature in a radically simplified and abstracted fashion, a process which evolved from Monet, whose work Lichtenstein was looking at around this time, and whose late depictions of waterlilies are a forerunner of the American artist’s landscape series.
    While true to his particular graphic style, Lichtenstein’s landscape paintings differ from the comic strips in their emphasis, for although both are deliberately stereotypical, many of the landscapes are so nearly abstract that their subject is not necessarily essential to their success as paintings. This is especially true of Prop for a Film and similar reductive works; they have a minimum of imagery, consisting primarily of an incised silhouette and just two areas of colour, translated into a screen of regularized Benday dots arrayed across the broad expanse of the picture plane.
    Lichtenstein has bent nature to his design, a design that includes heavy black outlines not found in natural landscapes and organic forms changed into geometric ones, creating a highly structured image from a less orderly reality. It is possible to conclude from paintings such as Prop for a Film that Lichtenstein found in landscape an opportunity to embrace a certain level of abstraction, thus loosening almost entirely the links between the object and its conventional representation that had been so critical for earlier painting.
    “Lichtenstein rendered a fluid landscape into a static one in very much the same manner in which Seurat stylized nature. He abstracted nature’s forms into his own construct using a series of dots, lines, shapes, and colours to transcribe the images of a landscape onto canvas. What we are offered, then, is a series of conventions for landscape with which we can amuse ourselves, but which we come to recognize as the artist’s way of telling us that the image is not what it appears to be. These conventions generally hold true for all representational painting, which requires of the viewer the willing suspension of disbelief, asking them to accept the painted image – at least for the moment – as the object or scene itself. However, unlike Cezanne or Monet, whose depiction of nature usually balanced abstraction with observation and a certain verisimilitude, Lichtenstein emphasizes the artificiality of his representation of landscape. When we accept the fact that the image has little relation to reality, we are faced with the realization that the image as a representation of reality is only one of many fictions.” (Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1994, p. 137).

  • 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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Prop for a Film

Magna on board.
101.6 × 243.8 cm (40 × 96 in).

Signed, titled and dated ‘Roy Lichtenstein Prop for a Film 1969’ on the reverse.

£500,000 - 700,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

29 June 2010