A Buyer’s Guide To Roy Lichtenstein

Whaam! by Roy LichtensteinWhaam! © Roy Lichtenstein 1967
Rebecca Marsham

Rebecca Marsham, Sales Director[email protected]

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If you are in the market to buy a Roy Lichtenstein print, here are a few pieces of advice before you start your search, to make sure you find the right piece at the right price.

Read MyArtBroker's Roy Lichtenstein Investment Guide In 2024.

According to the legendary art dealer Ivan Karp, “Every artist falters from time to time — except for Roy Lichtenstein.” Put another way, Roy Lichtenstein has the highest batting average of any major artist. His consistency was remarkable. Lichtenstein’s ability to transform virtually any subject into a crisp reductive image, often painted in bright primary colours, assured his place in the art history canon. Beyond his paintings, the highly graphic quality of his imagery was tailor-made for the printmaking process.

Below are some recommendations for acquiring Roy Lichtenstein prints:

The Top Lichtenstein Prints

Among the earliest Roy Lichtenstein silkscreens, dating back to 1965, are The Melody Haunts My Reverie and Sweet Dreams Baby! Both serve as exemplary illustrations of Pop art, exhibiting a close affinity to the artist's iconic comic book style aesthetic prevalent in the 1960s. These two artworks consistently command six-figure sums in the secondary market. However, due to their age, finding quality-conditioned prints from this period is a rarity. One prevalent issue with prints and multiples is sun exposure damage, resulting in colour deterioration and fading, a challenging restoration process that often necessitates re-screening. Re-screening involves creating another identical screenprint to apply fresh colours. However, this process raises concerns about alterations to the original artwork and the potential impact on its original value. When contemplating the purchase of older Lichtenstein works, seeking examination by an accredited conservation expert is the safest course of action. Industry specialists can offer valuable insights into quality assessment and identifying forgeries, particularly concerning pop art screenprints, which have experienced instances of forgery in the past. Other noteworthy Lichtenstein works that retain value include Crak! and Crying Girl (both from 1963). However, when it comes to prints and multiples, the condition is crucial.

With Lichtenstein's vast array of print works, there exists a plethora of high-quality examples to explore. As an ambitious artist, Lichtenstein continuously honed his craft, experimenting with various pop art styles. His collaboration with Kenneth Tyler of Tyler Graphics proved highly fruitful, elevating Lichtenstein's prints to new heights in terms of scale, ambition, and quality. Additionally, numerous large-scale prints produced by Gemini also showcased exceptional artistry.

Recent years have witnessed considerable attention on acquiring complete sets of pop art works. Among these is the lesser-known Bull Profile Series, comprising six lithographs created in 1963 and produced in an edition of 100. The series pays homage to Pablo Picasso's Le Taureau (1945), where the bull subject undergoes gradual simplification through eleven successive reworkings, transitioning from a naturalistic depiction to an abstract rendering. Lichtenstein's series, in contrast, is pre-conceived, based on collages and drawings he executed beforehand, working in reverse and serving as a parody of Picasso’s grand aspirations.

The Top Lichtenstein Prints

Water Lily Pond With Reflections (1992)

Nude With Blue Hair (1994)

Water Lilies With Willows (1992)

Brushstroke Still Life With Lamp (1997)

Roommates (1994)

Nude With Yellow Pillow (1994)

Reflections On Girl (1990)

Thinking Nude (1994)

The Melody Haunts My Reverie (1965)

Nurse by Roy LichtensteinNurse © Roy Lichtenstein

Undervalued Lichtenstein Prints

Undoubtedly, one of Roy Lichtenstein's more obscure series, the Mirrors series, has experienced considerable value appreciation over the years. Despite its seemingly simplistic imagery, this body of work offers a captivating exploration of Lichtenstein's technical finesse, deftly employing strategically placed Ben-Day dots and gradients to evoke the notion of a reflection through the lens of pop art mass production. This technique poses a significant challenge as it delves into the enigmatic nature of a mirror's elusive reflections, reframing them within the context of Lichtenstein's artistic vision.

Throughout the series, Lichtenstein delves into the dialogue between illusion and reality, a theme characteristic of his entire body of work. Staying true to his signature formal elements, reminiscent of his iconic comic book works, Lichtenstein resolutely adheres to the theme of solitude, refraining from adding a reflection in the mirror. This artistic choice allows the object to remain the sole subject of the piece, emphasising its significance within the composition.

An early admirer of these remarkable pieces was none other than Andy Warhol. In his elegant Upper East Side townhouse in New York City, Warhol displayed a circular Lichtenstein Mirror canvas above the fireplace mantel, making it an exquisite centrepiece of his art collection. The Mirrors series has seen more frequent appearances within the secondary market, commanding five-figure prices.

Additional Undervalued Lichtenstein Prints

Sunrise (1965)

Modern Art Poster (1967)

Entablature Series (1976)

American Indian Theme Series (1980)

Experimental Lichtenstein Prints

During the early 1990s, Roy Lichtenstein collaborated with publisher Donald Saff of Saff Tech Arts, giving birth to the extraordinary Water Lilies series (1992). This pop art collection drew inspiration from the renowned Impressionist painter Claude Monet's iconic Water Lilies paintings. Lichtenstein's innovative approach featured printed enamel on swirled stainless steel, pushing the boundaries of traditional printmaking materials and challenging the notion of what constitutes an original print. Similarly, in the print Les Nympheas (1993) Lichtenstein also reimagined Monet's textural brushstrokes and delicate interplay of light and shadow with a striking simplification of form, colour, and geometry, ushering the traditional aesthetic into the contemporary art world.

Lichtenstein's Les Nympheaus and Water lilies works are among Lichtenstein’s most coveted and continue to command high price points within the secondary market.

Just Say “No” Lichtenstein Prints

In 1969, Roy Lichtenstein ventured into producing two series that seemingly aimed to engage with the Op Art movement while reinterpreting Claude Monet's renowned Haystacks and Rouen Cathedral paintings fusing various periods of art history into one. However, neither of these series achieved the intended success. In both cases, Lichtenstein's iconic Ben-Day dots took precedence, overshadowing the original subjects.

The Brushstroke Faces series represents another unique and distinctive departure, blending abstract brushstrokes with facial features in a manner that almost caricatures the quintessential essence of a Roy Lichtenstein artwork. This endeavour to merge two distinct visual languages posed challenges, resulting in images that exist in a somewhat enigmatic state, deviating from the artist's customary style. Despite these complexities, works from this series have achieved fairly respectable success, commanding five-figure prices. Their rarity in the market may be a contributing factor to their value.

Reference Materials for Making Informed Decisions

The ultimate reference for Roy Lichtenstein enthusiasts lies within “The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonné 1948-1997.’’ This comprehensive source stands unparalleled, providing a complete visual documentation of Lichtenstein's prints alongside pertinent details for each artwork. Accompanying the catalogue is an insightful introductory essay by curator Ruth E. Fine, situating these prints within the broader context of the art world. Regrettably, the most valuable second edition of the catalogue is currently out of print, challenging to find, and comes with a hefty price tag.

For those seeking a more in-depth exploration of Lichtenstein's work, two captivating options are available, including the Guggenheim Museum exhibition catalogue “Roy Lichtenstein’’ by Diane Waldman and “Roy Lichtenstein A Retrospective’’ by James Rondeau and Sheena Wagstaff. Both publications showcase a plethora of large colour reproductions featuring many of his most significant paintings.

To ensure authenticity for your Roy Lichtenstein print, Richard Polsky Art Authentication specialises in the authentication of works by prominent artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Roy Lichtenstein. Visit their website at www.RichardPolskyart.com for expert assistance in this regard.

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