|Roy Lichtenstein, Brushstroke, 1965|
|Roy Lichtenstein, Hopeless, 1963|
|Roy Lichtenstein, Masterpiece, 1962|
|Roy Lichtenstein, Whaam!, 1963|
Around the same time, Lichtenstein also produced a lesser-known black and white series, which focused not on comics but rather on mundane everyday household items (like Warhol and his soup cans). The most successful of these is the huge Compositions I (1964), where he blows up the size of a high-school exercise book to dwarf the viewers. In this way, the painting becomes the object, rather than just a depiction of it.
|Roy Lichtenstein, Compositions I, 1964|
In the latter half of the 60's, Lichtenstein experimented with landscape. Personally, I don't think they're as successful - presumably the conclusion he also came to, as he never did anything like them again. Using only coloured dots and lines, he attempted to render down sunsets and sunrises to their bare elements - but they lack character and any rooting in recognisable or relatable popular imagery, and are, on the whole, pretty forgettable. Around this time, he also branched out into sculpture, taking inspiration from the then-outdated style of New York Art Deco for oversized, shiny brass sculptures. Although a complete departure from his usual style and oeuvre, they are quite amazing - especially since he attempted them as a complete amateur.
As I mentioned before, a big part of understanding Lichtenstein is the amusing way he deals with the subject of authorship and appropriation in art. Whilst it is slightly more acceptable to 'make art' out of comic strips or advertisements, when Lichtenstein takes on Picasso, things start to get interesting. Inspired by the artists of the first half of the 20th century, Lichtenstein created a series of paintings that put his own spin on the iconic works of Picasso, Matisse and Mondrian, among others. In my opinion, he's most successful at Picasso - their styles seem to work and compliment each other, creating a really interesting dialogue. This is shown in a 1974 Portrait Triptych, where one of Lichtenstein's glossy damsels morphs into a proto-cubistic Picasso 'femme'. The irony here is that Picasso is famously quoted to have said: "Good artists copy, great artists steal." You can see the inspiration and adaptation process if you put together the original Delacroix Femmes d'Alger, Picasso's Les Femmes d'Algers and Lichtenstein's interpretation, Femme d'Alger...
|Eugene Delacroix, Femmes d'Alger, 1834|
|Pablo Picasso, Les Femmes d'Algers, 1955|
|Roy Lichtenstein, Femme d'Alger, 1963|
Another artist that Lichtenstein 'took on' was Matisse. In the early 70's, Lichtenstein embarked on a series of 'Artist's Studios', taking heavy inspiration from Matisse's series of a similar subject matter. In Matisse's 1911 work, The Pink Studio, the artist depicts his studio - complete with his own works upon the walls. Lichtenstein copies this idea in his work Artist Studio 'Look Mickey' in 1973, where we see one of his earlier Pop Art works hanging with prominence on the wall. I also believe he's drawing somewhat on the work of the 'father of Pop Art' - Richard Hamilton - and his 1959 collage, Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing? See what you think...
|Henri Matisse, The Pink Studio, 1911|
|Roy Lichtenstein, Artist's Studio 'Look Mickey', 1973|
|Richard Hamilton, Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?, 1959|
|Roy Lichtenstein, Two Nudes, 1995|
At this point I was summoned to the pub, so I quickly looked at the last room of the exhibition - Japanese-inspired dot-paintings - before heading to Covent Garden to catch up with some friends. After a rushed drink, we said our goodbyes and headed to the Courtauld Institute in Somerset House to assemble for our private, after-hours tour of the new Picasso exhibition currently on show: 'Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901'.
Spread over a manageable two rooms, the exhibition focuses on the year that was a huge turning point for Picasso - both personally and artistically. In this year, he moved from his native Spain to Paris, and started signing his works simply, Picasso. In this way, he 'became' Picasso, as, before then, he had used both his parents surnames: Ruiz and Picasso (as is the tradition in Spain). It signifies a real sense of personal identification and reinvention for the artist, shown in the amazing assembly of works the Courtauld has managed to beg, steal and borrow for the exhibition. It marks the departure point for the one of the periods he is best known for: his blue period - and the paintings in this series witness the development of themes and ideas that would come to permeate and define his later works. I've included my favourite works from the exhibition here, one of which - the Girl with a Dove - is quite personal, as I grew up with a print of it in my childhood bathroom! If you're around the Strand between now and the end of May, I would definitely recommend you pop into Somerset House and see the paintings for yourself. In the risk of sounding like a hippy, they have an incredibly powerful 'aura' about them, and are charged with emotional energy. Even if you don't buy in for any of that, simply go because you'll probably never see all these works in the same room again - certainly not in London, anyway.
|Pablo Picasso, The Blue Room (The Tub), 1901|
|Pablo Picasso, Girl with a Dove, 1901|
|Pablo Picasso, The Death of Casagemas, 1901|
Painted after the dramatic suicide of his close Spanish friend,
the poet Carlos Casagemas, which had a huge impact on
Picasso - both personally and artistically.
|Pablo Picasso, Self Portrait, 1901|