Roy Lichtenstein’s Nude belongs to the iconic pop artist’s Brushstroke Faces series from the late 1980s. Lichtenstein in this series presents the brushstrokes themselves as his main composition. Nude seeks to recode the act of touching brush against canvas, as idolised by the abstract expressionists in the 1940s and 1950s.
By bringing the exact moment paint is applied to a surface to the foreground of each work, the artist questions the conceptual premise of the creative gesture. Brushstrokes become vehicles, with which Lichtenstein comments on the formal qualities of artworks and the art historical conventions lurking behind these.
Interestingly enough, Nude does not set out to commodify brushwork according to Lichtenstein’s signature commercial style. On the one hand, Nude’s larger than life strokes are situated on a printed comic background. The familiar burgundy stripes and Ben Day dots speak for themselves. There are however no black outlines or block colouring present in this work.
Occupying the very middle of Nude are emotive energetic sweeps of salmon, silver, dark red, blush and yellow coloured marks. These expressive brushstrokes represent the complete opposite of the artistic approach Lichtenstein became famous for. The work keenly embraces the technical finesse with which he engaged in the process of painting itself, in order to expose the authority given to this artistic gesture in the past.