Toni Clayton, American Pop & Modern Specialist
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Lichtenstein in these prints offers a culturally relevant aesthetic, evoking images, lettering and figures appropriated from comic strips.
The printed sequence was inspired by clippings and images collected from everyday furniture advertisements by the artist himself. Cribbed from visuals of quotidian domesticity, these interiors are rendered in characteristically bold primary colours, and delineated outlines.
Lichtenstein created his signature Benday dots using an aluminium mesh as a template, pushing oil paint through the holes using a toothbrush. Benday dots (also called Ben-Day or Ben Day dots) are named after the 19th-century illustrator and printer Benjamin Henry Day, who introduced the use of small, coloured dots in industrial printing to create gradual shading and block colours.
Whilst Lichtenstein's work derives from the visual vocabulary of popular culture, cartoon-like and mass-produced, his approach was in fact highly sophisticated and meaningful. His work was not only a satirical mirror to the society in which he worked but also remains decidedly relevant today.
The sequence is characterised by a highly stylised aesthetic of mundane domestic spaces, transformed through contrasting contouring, regimented patterns, and block colouring. The familiarity of Lichtenstein’s Interiors is further enhanced and reinvented through flat picture planes and distorted perspectives.
Lichtenstein’s Interior series was created at the beginning of the 1990s and towards the end of the artist’s career. The series features a variety of conceptual ideas and skills that Lichtenstein acquired in the preceding years culminating in this body of work.
A recurring theme in the series is the inclusion of works by many of Lichtenstein’s fellow contemporary artists. In Red Lamps (1990), for example, a painting that references Jackson Pollock seemingly half appears hanging on the wall on the right-hand side of the composition. Meanwhile, in Yellow Vase (1992) and Modern Room (1991) both, subtle Andy Warhol-inspired paintings hang prominently on the portrayed walls.
Living Room (1992) incorporates a reference to Lichtenstein’s own work, featuring his distinctive brushstroke motif on the left-hand side of the image.
These iconographical placements of famous artworks rightfully establish Lichtenstein alongside his contemporaries within an aesthetic tradition that recognises the artistic potential of popular culture. They also demonstrate the awareness Lichtenstein had of art history and his position within it. The series additionally serves as an overt reminder of the artist’s own presence within his work.
Lichtenstein’s Interior: Perfect Pitcher painting from 1994 sold for a total of £15.3 million at Christie’s New York on the 13th May 2021. This is the record price for an Interiors painting.