Roy Lichtenstein - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, June 7, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “I like the idea of the brushstroke on (printed canvas), and then with reflections it is even better. That’s why I like Reflections on Brushstrokes. It shows all of the paint and it has the glass in front, and the canvas and brushstrokes, so it encompasses all that is art – more or less.”
    —Roy Lichtenstein


    Executed in 1990, Reflections on Brushstrokes is a remarkable example from Roy Lichtenstein’s oeuvre, which spanned over five decades. Belonging to the Reflection Series – a group of eight prints that Lichtenstein produced with Tyler Graphics in 1990 – the present lot encompasses two key themes from the artist’s practice: the notions of the brushstroke and reflections. In Reflections on Brushstrokes, Lichtenstein revisited and combined a body of work focused on brushstrokes (1965-67) with his iconic printed Mirror Series (1972). The resulting print epitomises the Pop Art aesthetic, as well as the movement’s fondness for self-referentiality, and serves as a pinnacle of Lichtenstein’s artistic practice.  


    Evoking the experience of observing an abstract artwork behind glass, Reflections on Brushstrokes produces an intentional trompe l’oeil, captivating the viewer within the composition. Partly interrupted by oblique blocks of colour and pattern - both printed and collaged to the surface - the image seems to mirror and reflect light. Lichtenstein had long been fascinated with incorporating reflection into his artwork, but the inspiration to combine the visual effects of the reflection and refraction of light with his long-standing interest in gestural brushstrokes came when he unsuccessfully attempted to photograph a print by Robert Rauschenberg that was contained under glass. As the artist explained: “the light from a window reflected on the surface of the glass and prevented me from taking a good picture. But it gave me the idea of photographing […] works under glass, where the reflections would hide most of the work. [Reflections on Brushstrokes] portrays a painting under glass. It is framed and the glass is preventing you from seeing the painting.”

    “Brushstrokes are almost a symbol of art. The Brushstrokes paintings also resemble Abstract Expressionism. Of course visible brushstrokes in a painting convey a sense of grand gesture; but in my hands, the brushstrokes become a depiction of a grand gesture.”
    —Roy Lichtenstein

    Jackson Pollock in his studio. Image: Album / Alamy Stock Photo, Artwork: © 1991 Hans Namuth Estate, Courtesy Center for Creative Photography


    In the present lot, Lichtenstein continued his extended enquiry into the very nature of the brushstroke and its perceived importance in an art historical context. While expressive brushstrokes were revered by the Abstract Expressionists and art critics alike in post-war America, Lichtenstein’s satirical response was to parody this gestural mark through his antithetical Pop Art approach. Starting in the 1960s and exemplified in the present lot, Lichtenstein stripped the brushstroke back to its purest form, and rendered it in a highly mechanised style. In doing so, he intentionally distanced the brushstroke from its association with the artist’s hand, and thus with the concept of individual genius, which was so often bestowed on Abstract Expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock. Interestingly, the multi-layered lithographic process Lichtenstein employed to create these simplified, cartoonish marks in Reflections on Brushstrokes was immensely intricate and required excellent draughtsmanship. By combining such a complex technical approach with the adoption of a highly graphic and seemingly mass-produced aesthetic, Lichtenstein’s Reflections on Brushstrokes demonstrates the artistic possibilities afforded to him by the Pop Art style, while his elevation of the transformed brushstroke satirically critiques the emphasis placed on the gestural mark within the art historical canon.


    A vanguard of American Pop Art, Lichtenstein often based his imagery on materials sourced from popular culture and mass media. In Reflections on Brushstrokes, however, the artist referenced his own work, but still incorporated his signature Ben Day dots, graphic lines and bold colours in reference to newspaper cartoons. Exploring the duality between Pop and Fine art, these aspects allude to mass production and commerciality, further mocking the accepted conventions of singularity and uniqueness in fine art, while simultaneously addressing the heightened consumerism that defined twentieth century America.


    Reflections on Brushstrokes converges two of Lichtenstein’s most popular subjects, the brushstroke and reflection, showcasing the American Pop icon’s most refined craft and revolutionary concepts. Through the adoption of a seemingly commercial and industrial aesthetic, Lichtenstein contributed to the canonical art discourse on image-making, while maintaining a balance between the academic investigation of formalist theories and the light-hearted charm of his internationally renowned work. 

    • Literature

      Mary Lee Corlett 242


Reflections on Brushstrokes, from Reflections Series (C. 242)

Lithograph, screenprint and woodcut in colours with metallized PVC collage and embossing, on mould-made Somerset paper, with full margins.
I. 128.4 x 165 cm (50 1/2 x 64 7/8 in.)
S. 145.5 x 180.6 cm (57 1/4 x 71 1/8 in.)

Signed, dated and numbered 9/68 in pencil (there were also 16 artist's proofs), published by Tyler Graphics, Ltd., Mount Kisco, New York (with their blindstamp), framed.

Full Cataloguing

£20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for £38,100

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 7 - 8 June 2023