Roy Lichtenstein - Evening & Day Editions London Thursday, September 21, 2023 | Phillips
  • 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 Dutch Golden Age still lifes laden with allegory. Throughout the 1970s, Lichtenstein was consumed with the genre and completed many compositions echoing various still life ‘types’. Notably, Lichtenstein’s still lifes are devoid of the vanitas symbols that are so prolific within the still life genre. Certain symbols, such as skulls, candles and decaying fruit, which usually serve as reminders to the viewer of the unstoppable passage of time and the pervasive nature of their own mortality, are omitted. As a result, Lichtenstein’s still lifes are relieved of moral admonitions and memento mori, eschewing the gravitas of traditional still lifes. Instead, they playfully and self-referentially investigate notions of creation and, in the artist’s quintessential manner, reshape conceptions of artistic authorship.


    Kanji Nakamura, Still Life with Yellow Platter and Fruit, 19th-20th century, Harvard Art Museums

    “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. Kanji Nakamura, for instance, painted still lifes of an array of objects, including fruits, plates, figurines and plants, alike those in the present lot. Centrally concerned with light, colour and the relationships between various objects in the composition, Nakamura rendered his still lifes in a painterly and naturalistic manner. By contrast, Lichtenstein was not concerned with achieving verisimilitude. Instead, he sought to disregard the genre’s conventions. In Six Still Lifes, 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 gallerist, Leo Castelli, the Six Still Lifes series utilised a combination of screenprint and lithography to achieve this graphic language. 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.

    • Literature

      Mary Lee Corlett 128


Still Life with Figurine, from Six Still Lifes Series (C. 128)

Lithograph and screenprint in colours, on BFK Rives paper, with full margins.
I. 99.4 x 76.6 cm (39 1/8 x 30 1/8 in.)
S. 118.5 x 95.6 cm (46 5/8 x 37 5/8 in.)

Signed, dated and numbered 9/100 in pencil (there were also 10 artist's proofs), co-published by Multiples, Inc., and Castelli Graphics, New York, unframed.

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£12,000 - 18,000 

Sold for £17,780

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 21 - 22 September 2023