Roy Lichtenstein’s Red Applewas created as part of his Seven Apple Woodcuts of 1983. In this sequence, the artist turns his attention to the autographic mark-making of abstract expressionists and the ingrained concept of still lifes. The Seven Apple Woodcuts abstract the composition of Lichtenstein’sSix Still Lifes of 1974. The series also sets the tone for the artist’s later exploration of painterly gestures in his Brushstroke Faces of 1989.
Red Appledoes not attempt to commodify brushwork according to Lichtenstein’s signature aesthetic. The backdrop of the print is entirely white and stripped of all patterns. Stylistically familiar areas are scarce in this work, but its rich colour palette is distinctly ‘Lichtensteinian’. The contours of the simplistic apple in the middle of the composition are achieved through bold simulations of black brushstrokes. The outlines are disrupted in several places, letting the dark red colour spill out over the bottom half of the canvas.
There is a rhythm to Lichtenstein’s energetic sweeps, as he ridicules abstract expressionist beliefs regarding the power of brushwork. The unrefined quality of his imitation makes the beholder forget that the work is in fact a woodcut. Lichtenstein reduces the inanimate object to an essential shape, trusting that the beholder will recognise the subject matter all the same. He follows in the footsteps of renaissance and impressionist masters, demonstrating the endurance of still lifes as an art historical genre.