Roy Lichtenstein - Evening & Day Editions London Thursday, September 21, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Commandeering the lexicon of art history, Roy Lichtenstein’s Six Still Lifes series (1974), showcases the artist’s enduring dialogue with visual vocabulary of the past. The still life genre spans art history, from Egyptian tombs decorated with paintings of everyday objects, to modernist still lifes that experimented with style and abstraction. Throughout the 1970s, Lichtenstein was consumed with the motif and his Six Still Lifes series encapsulates art history’s various still life ‘types’. For instance, in the present lot, the inclusion of the portrait, together with the jug and artfully arranged plate of food and draped fabric, echoes the vanitas scenes of Dutch Golden Age artworks. Laden with allegory, the fruit, vessels and portraits of these artworks were intended to symbolise the unstoppable passage of time and to remind the viewer of the pervasive nature of their own mortality. Nonetheless, through the omission of certain symbols – skulls, candles, decaying fruit – Lichtenstein’s renditions of the genre eschew its gravitas. As a result, Lichtenstein’s still lifes are relieved of moral admonitions and memento mori. Instead, they playfully and self-referentially investigate notions of creation and, in the artist’s quintessential manner, reshape conceptions of artistic authorship.


    Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid, c. 1660, Rijksmuseum. Image: Rijksmuseum, SK-A-2344

    “When we think of still lifes, we think of paintings that have a certain atmosphere or ambience. My still life paintings have none of those qualities, they just have pictures of certain things that are in a still life, like lemons and grapefruits and so forth. It’s not meant to have the usual still life meaning.”
    —Roy Lichtenstein

    The still life genre has long been an opportunity for artists to experiment with light, colour and perspective. In The Milkmaid (c. 1660), for instance, Johannes Vermeer uses adept linear perspective and meticulous rendering to present this domestic tableau featuring a still life in the foreground with remarkable realism. Nonetheless, in disregarding verisimilitude, Lichtenstein’s series sits in dialogue with other modern masters, such as Georges Braque, Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso, who similarly engendered a nuanced deconstruction of the genre’s conventions. The bold cartoonish outlines, flat planes of colour and graphic simplifications of tone oust painterly naturalism in favour of the artist’s iconic comic book aesthetic. Printed by Multiples, Inc. together with Lichtenstein’s agent, Leo Castelli, the Six Still Lifes series utilises a combination of screenprint and lithography to achieve this. With as many visual similarities to mechanically reproduced advertisements or commercial cartoons as to historical still lifes, the moral subtexts that traditionally underpin still lifes are further subverted. In this sense, Lichtenstein’s series invites the viewer to question the role of the artist and to reconsider traditional boundaries of artistic creation.

    • Condition Report

    • Literature

      Mary Lee Corlett 131


Still Life with Portrait, from Six Still Lifes Series (C. 131)

Lithograph and screenprint in colours with debossing, on BFK Rives paper, with full margins.
I. 96.9 x 72.4 cm (38 1/8 x 28 1/2 in.)
S. 120.1 x 95.4 cm (47 1/4 x 37 1/2 in.)

Signed, dated and numbered 11/100 in pencil (there were also 10 artist's proofs), co-published by Multiples, Inc., and Castelli Graphics, New York, unframed.

Full Cataloguing

£25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for £30,480

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 21 - 22 September 2023