Request more information
STILL LIFE WITH LAMP
54 x 74 in. 137.2 x 188 cm.
signed and dated 76 on the reverse
oil and magna on canvas
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (LC# 754)
Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago
Private Collection, Switzerland
Christie's, New York, May 7, 1996, lot 27
Acquired by the present owner from the above
Chicago, Richard Gray Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein: New Paintings and Drawings, January - March 1977
Chicago, Art Institute, extended loan, 1978 - 1982
Exh. Cat., St. Louis Art Museum, Roy Lichtenstein: 1970 - 1980, 1981, p. 107, illustrated
Lawrence Alloway, Lichtenstein, New York, 1983, pl. no. 85, p. 84, illustrated in color
Roy Lichtenstein, Contemporary Great Masters: Roy Lichtenstein, Toyko, 1992, p. 32, illustrated
In 1976, Roy Lichtenstein executed a unique group of Office Still Lifes focused on the linear qualities of discrete objects and the interior, and composed using images taken from commercial catalogues. Lichtenstein first attempted the still life as subject matter briefly, yet boldly, in his 1961-62 paintings of single objects against a flat monochromatic background. The only painting of this period in which Lichtenstein adopted a more generic still-life composition was in Black Flowers (1961), but when he returned to the theme in 1971, Lichtenstein's canvases depicted more complex compositions. The Office Still Lifes are a distinct set of works within this series, rendered in cool palette tones with a heightened interest in geometry.
The ten paintings that make up the Office Still Lifes evolved from a series of drawings Lichtenstein made using a blue fountain pen and pencil. The broad, inky and flat pen lines became the dominant diagonal striping first found in the artist's paintings of the mid-1970s, emerging as the graphic alternative to his Benday dot patterns of the 1960s. While some still lifes of the early 1970s were closely related to paintings by Henri Matisse, the Office Still Lifes did not pursue such investigations of ``art about art'' and instead addressed the more purely graphic design elements of Lichtenstein's Pop Art style. "Containing details apparently expropriated from newspaper ads and office supply catalogues: dossiers, cashboxes, folding chairs, files, drafting lamps, attaché cases, and paper rolls, the compositions are clearly invented and have little to do with preexisting art", stated Jack Cowart (Exh. Cat., St. Louis Art Museum, Roy Lichtenstein 1970-1980, 1981, p. 102).
The present work, Still Life with Lamp, is a classic example of Lichtenstein's engagement with this theme. The palette of neutral tones of gray, blue, yellow and green, was unusual for Lichtenstein's oeuvre. Partially inspired by the blue fountain pen of his original sketches, Lichtenstein primarily chose these colors because he felt they would recall the most ordinary office furniture and equipment. Combining rectangular and circular forms, these shapes are even further emphasized by the strong dark contour lines used to outline, and therefore project, the objects from the picture plane. The blazing white light generating from the office desk lamp sets the whole scene aglow, adding further animation to the composition. As Cowart notes, "Lichtenstein is pushing the planar graphic system here to an absurd point following his 1972-74 Still Lifes and the 1975 Purist paintings, replacing most reflection or shadow with diagonal striping as the half tone" (Ibid. p. 102).
Throughout his career, Lichtenstein, like his contemporary Andy Warhol, was continuously taking the everyday and elevating it to High Art in finely rendered and thoughtfully constructed canvases. Still Life with Lamp is a brilliant representation which embodies this objective wholly. As his oeuvre grew, Lichtenstein, like Warhol, created works that included references to his own earlier works in a retrospective fashion. In Lichtenstein's large scale Interiors, begun in 1991, he depicted images of his past work, including some of the Office Still Life series, as paintings hanging in these fictive homes.