The Reflections series was completed in the early 1990s and shows several of Roy Lichtenstein's recurrent subjects, disrupted by harsh lines and superimposed pictorial planes suggesting the subject is viewed through a glass plane. Lichtenstein challenges the traditional conception of accurate representation with the contingency of real-life vision.

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Meaning & Analysis

Looking at light and perception, the elaborate Reflections series is a distinctive example of the artist’s tendency to reconcile contrastive visuals. His devotion to the stylised language of advertising and the intricacies of printmaking revolutionised the art scene of the 1960s. Lichtenstein continued to re-envision the means of modern painting and classical art until his passing in 1997. The artist’s enlarged and reframed cartoon icons remain influential to this day.

The elaborate Reflections series was completed in the early 1990s. The sequence is a distinctive example of the artist’s tendency to reconcile contrastive visuals. As opposed to a simple concept of ‘theme and variation’, the Reflections represent innovative ideas of light and perception. The artist previously explored these topics in his Mirrors and Water Lilies of the late 1980s.

In keeping with Lichtenstein’s pop practice, the Reflections combine traditional painterly gestures with the detached manner of commercial imagery. Similar to Paintings of the mid-1980s, the main objective of this series is to challenge the notion of artistic originality.

Harsh lines cut across these canvases and result in superimposed pictorial planes, creating a dual sense of depth and flatness. With this deceptive play on vision and dimension, Lichtenstein challenges conventions of creating and seeing. In this regard, the series is comparable to the artist’s Haystacks and Cathedrals of the early 1970s.

Each one of the Reflections prints references Lichtenstein’s own motifs from his emblematic oeuvre. The sequence sabotages the artist’s popular figures and stories by seemingly depicting them through a glass lens. As such, Lichtenstein’s notorious blonde heroine and explosive war scenes appear behind imposing streaks that sever the portraits. The narratives are interrupted and blocked, leaving the beholder to decipher the subject matter beneath.

Even Lichtenstein’s brushwork parodies are included in this series. These works in particular ridicule the artistic legacies of Abstract Expressionism by allowing the splintered shards to encroach the energetic sweeps on the surface. The partly hidden figurative images are altered and obscured by fractions of unmodulated pigments and patterns, pushing them to the point of abstraction. The reduced characters are glimpsed between sharp mirrored shapes that break and refract the picture plane. In doing so, the works reinvent their source material into a graphic composition of reflections that resembles a fragmented and disjointed collage.

10 Facts About Roy Lichtenstein's Reflections

Reflections On A Soda Fountain by Roy Lichtenstein

Reflections On A Soda Fountain © Roy Lichtenstein 1990

1. The series toys with ways of seeing.

By concealing his original compositions with shards of glass or light, Lichtenstein challenges notions of vision, dimension, and the very purpose of representation. This is something also explored in his Haystack and Cathedral series, where Lichtenstein similarly used his iconic Ben-Day dots almost like optical illusions.

Reflections On Hair by Roy Lichtenstein

Reflections On Hair © Roy Lichtenstein 1990

2. Lichtenstein defaces his own work in this series.

In Reflections, Lichtenstein appropriates and sabotages his own comic book-inspired works by depicting them through a glass lens, distorting the viewer's vision of them. Though they are defaced, the works are still distinctly Lichtenstein, speaking to the power of his visual language by this point in his career.

Mirror #8 by Roy Lichtenstein

Mirror #8 © Roy Lichtenstein 1972

3. The series is not the first time Lichtenstein experimented with light and vision.

In the later years of his career, Lichtenstein became increasingly fascinated by abstraction. His Mirrors series, for example, challenged representation and perception by depicting a mirror as a completely two-dimensional object. This was something he took forward into Reflections, using layers to distort the viewer's perception.

Reflections On Minerva by Roy Lichtenstein

Reflections On Minerva © Roy Lichtenstein 1990