Artist: Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Title: Two Nudes, State I (Corlett 285)
Edition: 10, plus proofs
Medium: Relief print in colors on Rives BFK mold-made paper
Size: 48 x 41 inches
Inscription: Signed, dated, and numbered 9/10 by the artist.
Notes: Two Nudes 1994 is one of a series of nine screenprints that Lichtenstein produced in 1994 on the subject of the nude. Other examples from the series in Tate’s collection are Roommates 1994 (Tate AL00376) and Nude Reading 1994 (Tate AL00375). The prints were made at Tyler Graphics Ltd., Mount Kisco, New York and are recorded in the second volume of the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s prints (Corlett and Fine 2002). As well as using hand-cut stencils to produce his trademark Benday dots in irregularly shaped pieces, Lichtenstein employed computer-generated dye-cut stencils, produced by Swan Engraving, for some of the areas of dots and patterns in these prints. This copy of Two Nudes is number one of twelve artist’s proofs aside from the edition of forty.
In the final years of his life, Lichtenstein took up the theme of the nude – one of the major subjects in the history of visual art – and it became an important part of his late work. As well as series of prints, Lichtenstein made paintings on the subject of the nude, including works such as Nudes with Beach Ball 1994 and Blue Nude 1994. It was the first time that he had approached the subject, but also marked a return to the comic book style of imagery he had first developed in the early 1960s. Rather than working from life, Lichtenstein drew on female figures from the comic books he had first used in the 1960s, removed their clothes and imagined their bare bodies beneath in order to recreate them as nudes. Reproduced as comic-strip heroines, the figures in these works are intentionally provocative, presented to the viewer as a generic object of desire.
The nudes also show Lichtenstein developing compositional techniques. Speaking in an interview in 1994, he noted that he explored the subject of the nude because it was ‘a good excuse to contrast undulating and volumetric form with rigid geometry’ (quoted in Robert Hurlburt, ‘Lichtenstein Returns to Comic-Book Style’, Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, 13 November 1994, cited in Christie’s, New York, Prints & Multiples, auction catalogue, Sale 2548, 24–5 April 2012). Curator Sheena Wagstaff has explained:
In the Nudes, not only did Lichtenstein alter the equation in the compositional tension between motif and formal concerns, but also, crucially, he seized upon a new pictorial language. He deduced and acknowledged the nude as a form through which a new syntax could emerge by means of an understated narrative that implies a relationship between the artist-creator and the nude.
(Sheena Wagstaff, ‘Late Nudes’, in Rondeau and Wagstaff 2012, p.95.)
The nudes relate to many other areas of Lichtenstein’s output, including reflections, mirrors and interiors, and they demonstrate his ongoing fascination with the modern masters, particularly Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. He explained:
I’ve always been interested in Matisse but maybe a little more interested in Picasso. But they are both overwhelming influences on everyone, really. Whether one tries to be like them or tries not to be like them, they’re always there as presences to be dealt with. They’re just too formidable to have no interest. I think that somebody who pretends he’s not interested is not interested in art.
(Roy Lichtenstein, ‘A Review of My Work Since 1961’, in Bader 2009., p.55.)
Mary Lee Corlett and Ruth E. Fine, The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonné: 1948–1997, New York and Washington D.C., revised and updated second edition 2002.
Graham Bader (ed.), OCTOBER Files 7: Roy Lichtenstein, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London 2009.
Gianni Mercuri (ed.), Roy Lichtenstein: Meditations on Art, Milan 2010.
James Rondeau and Sheena Wagstaff, Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London and Art Institute of Chicago 2012.
ROY LICHTENSTEIN (1923-1997) An American painter, print-maker and decorative artist who achieved fame in the 1960s. His paintings, based on motifs and procedures of comic strips and advertisements established him as one of the central figures of American Pop Art. Using bright strident colors and techniques such as Ben-Day dots, he ironically incorporates mass-produced emotions and objects into highly sophisticated references to art history. His Pop images of spectacular color, often with vernacular imagery and witty texts, lend themselves to multiple interpretations.