Comic Sans Clothes

The Nudes Series by Roy Lichtenstein

The nude women in Roy Lichtenstein’s 1994 series were not drawn from life, rather the artist pulled the figures from 1960s comic books, removed their clothes, and created bursting compositions using his distinct visual vocabulary. In Nudes, Lichtenstein masterfully creates sensual volumes using ridged geometries and the resulting images pulsate with dots and vibrate with line. Almost collaged into the background, the artist incorporates references to his earlier works like Reflections, Imperfect, Water Lily and Interior Series

Illustration for Suddenly, Everything Stopped in Girls' Love Stories, No. 103, May 1964

In the present lot, our nude sits perched on the arm of a sofa, Water Lily hangs on the wall behind her head with a sculpture grabbed from Imperfect on the table to her right. Borrowed from a Girls’ Love Stories comic book, Lichtenstein removes his figure from the beach and plants her in a modern living room. Her striped swimsuit is gone, but the breeze is still blowing in her hair. The series—created near the end of his life—marked his first foray into the subject matter and also a reflective return to the comic book style that defined his early career.  

Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein is one of the originators of the Pop Art movement, famed for paintings that take kitsch and transform it into culture. Lichtenstein was born in New York City in 1923. Growing up, he took art classes at the Art Student League where he created realist paintings. Lichtenstein continued his study of art at Ohio State University but, with the advent of World War II, he enlisted in the army in 1943. Lichtenstein returned to Ohio State after the war to finish his master’s degree in studio art. While Lichtenstein was teaching art at Rutgers University, he became close with fellow artist Allan Kaprow, who introduced him to Claes Oldenburg. It was during the 1960s that Lichtenstein began experimenting with what would become his signature style of taking images from comic books and newspapers and reproducing them on a large scale, calling attention to the flatness of the imagery with his Ben-Day technique of painting dots. In 1962, Lichtenstein got his first break with a one-man show at the Leo Castelli Gallery, which sold out before it opened.

Later in his career, Lichtenstein began to cleverly re-appropriate the work of fellow modern masters like Warhol, Picasso, and Mondrian, either by overtly miming the imagery or by placing these works of art into his Interiors series of paintings. The public alternatively lauded and reviled Lichtenstein for his quiet commitment to painting popular culture, and was often met with mixed feeling; in 1964 Life magazine published an article about him entitled “Is He the Worst Artist in America?” Regardless, Lichtenstein’s place in the canon of modern art is firmly established, and his works are found in major museums across the world. Lichtenstein passed away in 1997.

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