Roy Lichtenstein’s Brushstroke of 1965 belongs to the artist’s prolific exploration of the brushstroke motif, which comprises several unique editions and portfolios. The primary objective of the work is to challenge the idealised mannerism of modern art. The reduced and stylised iconography employed in this print initiates a critical shift away from abstract expressionist formulas in particular.
Brushstroke manifests the spontaneous painterly expression of Abstract Expressionism as a calculated and controlled visual sign. This artwork is the quintessential embodiment of not only Lichtenstein’s oeuvre but of Pop Art itself. The print confronts art historical legacies by distilling the main characteristics of brushwork into one cropped sweep of colour.
Lichtenstein centers his enlarged bright yellow brushstroke on a background composed of blue and white Ben Day dots. The flattened sporadic drips and splatters, and the trailing outlines defining the brushstroke add tone and dimension to the composition. At first glance, Lichtenstein’s brushstroke rendition appears to be devoid of explicit motion. Yet, the bold shadows resulting from the contours hold inherent suggestions of movement.
By presenting a cartoonish take on the act of painting, Brushstroke questions the authenticity of autobiographical mark-making in art. Lichtenstein’s mechanised sweep ultimately mimics the gestures performed by the artist’s hand beyond the confines of the picture plane.