Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein
Ball of Twine, 1963
Mirror, 1972
Girl with Tear III, 1977
Painting in Landscape, 1984
Beach Scene with Starfish, 1995
Ball of Twine, 1963
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Currently exhibited at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Roy Lichtenstein
Roy Lichtenstein
Ball of Twine, 1963

Magna on canvas, 101.60 x 91.40 cm

Mirror, 1972
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Currently not on show

Roy Lichtenstein
Mirror, 1972

Oil and Magna on canvas, diameter 122 cm
Photo: Robert McKeever, Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Lichtenstein’s Mirror series, started in 1969, is based on pictures of mirrors the artist discovered in sales brochures of glassware shops. Lichtenstein was primarily interested in the problem of how to represent intangible phenomena – such as surface reflections – using concrete pictorial devices like Ben-Day dots, lines and planes, and thereby render them in his own pictorial idiom. In Mirror he has succeeded in translating the immateriality of the reflection into an abstract painting, while preserving the image’s object character as a mirror by means of the round format and its painted frame. With Mirror, the artist fosters a sophisticated discourse about the nature and the relationship between reality, art and illusion, which he was later to develop along different conceptual and aesthetic lines in works such as Painting in landscape, another painting in the Fondation’s collection.

Girl with Tear III, 1977
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Currently exhibited at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Roy Lichtenstein
Girl with Tear III, 1977

Oil and Magna on canvas, 117 x 101.5 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

This work is the last of a three-part sequence of paintings Lichtenstein completed in 1977, in which he makes a play on the pictorial idiom of Picasso and Dalí while re-interpreting motifs from his own oeuvre in a surrealistic style. For instance, he deforms facial features of the comic-strip beauties from his earlier works – such as the weeping blonde in the 1963 painting Hopeless (Kunstmuseum Basel), whose tears appear to have served as the model for this amorphous fragment of a face in Girl with tear III. Poised in delicate balance, yet ostensibly stable, the figure’s formal ambivalence gives it the appearance of a phantasm with contours that oscillate between the profile of a young girl and the face of a witch – a symbiosis of Lichtenstein’s token of reverence towards Surrealist art and of its perception by the viewing public.

Painting in Landscape, 1984
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Currently not on show

Roy Lichtenstein
Painting in Landscape, 1984

Oil on canvas, 127 x 152.5 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

Beach Scene with Starfish, 1995
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Currently not on show

Roy Lichtenstein
Beach Scene with Starfish, 1995

Oil and Magna on canvas, 300.5 x 604 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

Two years before he died, Roy Lichtenstein produced this enormous painting showing four naked beauties playing ball on the beach. Yet beyond its surface reading this impressive work reveals a number of other aspects, including certain references to earlier works of art. For instance, the bathing figures, the beach ball decorated with stars, the bathing hut and even the rocks towering up in the background are to be found in Picasso’s tiny Surrealist beach scenes from 1931 – to which Lichtenstein here has dedicated a large-scale monument. At the same time, Lichtenstein is also quoting from his own work, with the flowing manes of hair of the two women on the left and the right surely echoing his own “Brushstroke” works, in which he explored ways of portraying a brushstroke. The subtle interplay of dot screening and stripes removes the picture further from its ostensible superficiality and wholly transforms it into an ecstatic celebration of Western painting.

Roy Lichtenstein

1924, New York – 1997, New York

The American painter and printmaker is considered one of the pioneers and leading protagonists of American Pop Art. It was not until 1960, after spending a number of years studying and teaching, and having little success selling his work, that Roy Lichtenstein finally found his hallmark style; this involved mimicking commercial printing techniques and transferring the Ben-Day dot images of printed motifs onto canvas. Besides comic strips, he also drew inspiration for his large-format paintings from commonplace sources such as illustrations or small ads in newspapers and magazines. Later in his career, Lichtenstein produced pastiche adaptations of works by Cézanne, Matisse and Mondrian. From 1969–72 he produced his Mirror Paintings and several large-scale wall paintings. In the final years of his creative life in the 1990s he increasingly turned his attention towards sculptural work.

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