Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Roy Lichtenstein's Sleeping Girl

Roy Lichtenstein, Sleeping Girl, 1964

David Barsalou's image showing Roy Lichtenstein's source material for Sleeping Girl, Tony Abruzzo's panel from the December 1964 issue of DC Comic's Girls' Romances.

Another extremely helpful image from David Barsalou--as if you couldn't tell--allowing comparison of Roy Lichtenstein's painting, right, with Tony Abruzzo's original comic book panel, left
Roy Lichtenstein's Sleeping Girl on display at a Sotheby's preview in London.

Sleeping Girl from 1964 is one of Roy Lichtenstein's classic "girl" paintings. It sold for an impressive $44.8 million dollars on May 9, a sales record for the artist. I saw the work on display at Sotheby's New York about ten days before the Contemporary Art Evening Auction, and it is quite striking. It is big without being too big. It is everything one wants to see in a painting by Roy Lichtenstein.

Lichtenstein's source was a panel of a weeping, blonde woman from a romance comic book illustrated by Tony Abruzzo. The story title was "Don't Kiss Me Again!" Some of the changes Lichtenstein made seem trivial. The woman is shown sleeping rather than crying. Her hand, which was there to wipe away tears, has been removed from the panel, and much of the emotional content has been removed as well.  Our subject is now just a pretty face, big and blonde and beautiful.

Lichtenstein intensifies the image by ratcheting up the scale. He adds that bold, acid yellow hair and the many dots which are meant to suggest the look of print in comic books, but which certainly are anything but a slavish reproduction of printing techniques. Up close the dots really seem to be following their own design rules, but from a distance or in a reproduction the painting can seem to be a fair approximation of a comic book panel.

My favorite quotation by Roy Lichtenstein concludes an excellent article that appeared in The New York Times on March 31, 1995 when the artist was 71. The article had been part of a series in which the writer accompanies an artist to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The longish title was "AT THE MET WITH: Roy Lichtenstein; Disciple Of Color And Line, Master Of Irony" by Michael Kimmelman.
"I don't think artists like myself, and Ellsworth [Kelly], have the faintest idea what we're doing, in fact; but we try to put it in words that sound logical," he adds, mischievously. "Actually, I think I do know what I'm doing. But no other artist does."

Master of irony indeed!

The Sotheby's auction catalogue listing follows:

Fig. 1.  Andy Warhol Campbell's Soup Can (Tomato), 1962
Private Collection
© 2012 Andy Warhol Foundation / ARS, NY /
TM Licensed by Campbell's Soup Co. All Rights Reserved.

Fig. 2.  Jasper Johns Three Flags, 1958
The Whitney Museum of American Art,
New York
© Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA,
New York, NY
Fig. 3.  Roy Lichtenstein at the 'First International Girlie Exhibit'
7 January 1964
Photo: CBS Photo Archive/ Getty Images
© 2008 CBS Worldwide INC.
Fig. 4  Grace Kelly
© CinemaPhoto/Corbis

Fig. 5.  Grace Kelly
© CinemaPhoto/Corbis
Fig. 6.  Roy Lichtenstein Study for Sleeping Girl, 1964
Collection James and Katherine Goodman
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
Fig. 7.  Pablo Picasso Le Rêve, 1932
Private Collection
© 2012 Estate of Pablo Picasso | Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Fig. 8.  The Sleeping Hermaphrodite,
copy after an original of the 2nd century BC,
the mattress is an addition by Gian Lorenzo Bernini,
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Photo: Peter Willi/The Bridgeman Art Library

Fig. 9.  Andy Warhol Shot Blue Marilyn, 1964
Courtesy of the Brant Foundation
© 2012 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts /
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Fig. 10.  Gustav Klimt Danaë, 1907
Galerie Würthle, Vienna

Fig. 11.  Constantin Brancusi Sleeping Muse, 1909-10
© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Fig. 12.  Pablo Picasso Le Miroir, 1932
Private Collection
© 2012 Estate of Pablo Picasso I Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York

Fig. 13.  The present work installed in the Gersh home
Artwork © 2012 John Chamberlain I Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
© 2012 Frank Stella I Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
© 2005 Estate of Sam Francis I Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Fig. 14.  Ferus Gallery exhibition announcement for Roy Lichtenstein opening
November 24, 1964
Photo: Dennis Hopper, Courtesy of Irving Blum
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

[End of Sotheby's auction catalogue listing]

DC Comics Girls' Romances, No. 105, December 1964 with "Don't Kiss Me Again!" The source material by Tony Abruzzo for Roy Lichtenstein's Sleeping Girl appears in this story.
The sale at Sotheby's New York, May 9, 2012

Sotheby's videos:

A Conversation with Irving Blum: 

'Sleeping Girl'

A Conversation with Paul Schimmel: 

'Sleeping Girl'

Roy Lichtenstein, Sleeping Girl, 1964

Note:  My previous post on Roy Lichtenstein's Ohhh...Alright... can be found here.


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