Roy Lichtenstein Nude in Apartment

Roy Lichtenstein Nude in Apartment
Acrylic on Paper Collage
Printed Paper Collage, Tape and Pencil on Board
82.5 by 71.1 cm
32 1/2 by 28 inches
Executed in 1995

Roy Lichtenstein's majestic Nude in Apartment is a late and impressive collage by one of the brightest lights of the Pop movement. Executed in 1995, the present work represents an extraordinary synthesis of many of the artist's previous concerns, displaying reflections; mirrors, interiors (both real and reflected) configured as a Still Life, as well as a depiction of a sassy female nude that, in her sexy pose and coy expression, recalls the artist's earlier leading ladies from his Cartoon paintings. In its construction, Nude in Apartment quotes the triumphs of the past, whilst inciting an art historical dialogue with the Modern female nude as denoted by a formal parity with Henri Matisse's Nu rose, intérieur rouge (Pink Nude, Red Interior) from 1947. The complex composition of the present work positively vibrates with life: the product of a nexus of the most graphic of visual sensibilities with a delight for unadulterated color. With age, Lichtenstein seemed to challenge himself; thus, the present composition betrays a spatial dynamic that takes time for the viewer to negotiate. The flatness of the surface remains constant, but the journey we take to grasp any sense of meaning takes a little longer, and, indeed, is more rewarding.

Roy Lichtenstein Nude in Apartment
Detail I

Dominating the work is the life size female figure; her pale blond, wavy bob spilling out over her slender neck, thus drawing attention to her naked torso, arms and suggestively ending just at her hip bone. There are countless source materials for this figure, most of them being old cartoons, so that Lichtenstein, at the end of his life, created paintings in much the same way he had thirty-five years before. However, unlike in the past, the present figure is an amalgamation of several sources. Her hair from one cartoon strip; her pose (with the strong diagonal being formed by her arm) from another. Primary colours of yellow, red and blue prevail on the surface, built up, yet simultaneously broken down through Lichtenstein's employment of Benday dots and stripes. The simplicity of his technique lends his works a fresh vitality, as if, through Lichtenstein, their voices can be heard once more. Indeed, Lichtenstein had made works in the early 1960s, which were interpretations of works by Picasso. His idea of making 'art about art' was thus not new, but in this work, his technique and concept has become more programmatic and dedicated. Working in concert with these structurally strong lines and graduated succession of Benday dots (to evince a sense of atmosphere, as successfully employed in the series of Chinese Landscapes) is a more descriptive, curvilinear line that powerfully evokes a sense of bodily flesh or the softness of a plump cushion. The vertical thrust of the Benday dots acts as a veil of colour over the surface, lending dimensionality to the figure's body as well as the furniture.

Roy Lichtenstein Nude in Apartment
Detail II

The most direct comparison one can make with Nude in Apartment is with Lichtenstein's own Interiors, made from 1991 until his death in 1997. These monumental canvases displayed living spaces (be they kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms) which he purloined from the Yellow Pages. In these paintings Lichtenstein began to quote his earlier production, displaying his earlier paintings hanging on the walls of his new Interiors. Such is the case here, where
Lichtenstein shows an oval mirror at right. The yellow frame of the mirror that effects the reflection evokes Lichtenstein's famous self-portrait with a mirror instead of his head as we see the reflection of the apartment. Indeed, the logic of 'reflections' permeates not only this work but the whole of Lichtenstein's canon – a body of work predicated on the nature of reality and illusion. He has employed mirrors, windows and other reflecting surfaces as subject matter to afford him the opportunity of exploring the rich, complex interaction between light, object, Image and Index. In a sense, Lichtenstein's oeuvre can be seen as a mirror held up against society: an analogue for the way we live and the objects with which we both surround and comfort ourselves. Likewise, the palpable qualities of objects that physically
reflect represent only one layer of Lichtenstein's multi-faceted approach to this 'subject'. 'Reflecting' can also be 'looking back'; delving into the past to make some sense of the present, as made clear in the artist's return to several favoured subjects within the same composition.

Image Credit: Sotheby's