Roy Lichtenstein repeatedly referenced various artists and schools of art historical thought over the course of his career. In 1969, he paraphrased French impressionist Claude Monet’s painterly studies dealing with the transience of light and colour in two masterful series of prints.
Both his Haystack series and his Cathedral series integrate colourful painterly gestures with the readymade qualities of printmaking. By doing so, they address hierarchical notions pinning high art against low art.
Lichtenstein’s Haystacks present a mechanical version of Monet’s stacks of harvest from 1891, directing criticism at art history’s claim that serial reproduction is devoid of originality. In fact, the prints in this series exhibit images that are in essence purer than their source material, seeing as they are controlled through their medium of commercial design.
In his Haystack prints, Lichtenstein replaces the spontaneous impressionist brushstrokes with his calculated signature Ben Day dots. Minimising the presence of light, he applies colour and hand-painted patterns as a means to parallel the objective of the original impressionist paintings. Similar to Haystack #5, Haystack #6 depicts the obscured image of the hayfield at nighttime. This is demonstrated through the dark red backdrop, which elevates the print’s black centre composition of the haystack.