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The Water Lilies of Roy Lichtenstein - 3D virtual exhibition by David Benrimon Fine Art

The Water Lilies of Roy Lichtenstein

Of the most innovative works are Lichtenstein’s Water Lilies series, a small edition on metal, which plays homage to the water lily paintings of Claude Monet. Always drawn to popular and clichéd themes, Lichtenstein takes Monet’s Water Lilies, artworks as iconographic as Mickey Mouse, and reworks them in his signature comic style, transforming them into Pop Art.

Landscapes were the first time-honored art genre Lichtenstein turned to after his comic inspired Pop prints of the early 1960s. Inspired by Impressionist Claude Monet’s Nympheas, Lichtenstein furthered Monet’s exploration of light with a contemporary sensibility. Lichtenstein screenprinted solid blocks of colored sign-painter’s enamel on stainless steel to create an appearance of reflected water. Although not fully apparent in photographs, the water-lilies constantly transmogrify light and color as they engage with their surroundings, shifting and changing as the work is viewed from different angles. This immersive quality recalls Monet’s engrossing and vast canvases of ponds and water lilies that envelope the viewer. This fascination with water-lilies is a motif found throughout Lichtenstein’s oeuvre, such as in his water-lilies and Mirror series.

In addition to lessons of light, Lichtenstein expanded Monet’s rejection of illusory perspective by using his comic style and careful composition. For example, Water Lilies with Cloud reverses the traditional ideas of perspective and compositional order by eliminating depth with flattened forms, and an interchangeable foreground, and background on the same plane. With a wider tonal range that includes green, orange, and yellow, Lichtenstein reduces Monet’s dancing water-lilies to diagonal stripes, cascading Benday dots and flat areas of color to symbolize movement without being illusory.

Lichtenstein parodied Monet’s masterworks throughout his career, such as in Cathedrals and Haystacks in 1969, rendering them with a mass-produced quality like a machine made an impressionist painting. Of Water Lilies, Lichtenstein noted, “Instead, say, of thick and thin paint which might be the European sensibility, I’m using flat areas of color as opposed to dotted areas which imitate Benday dots in printing and become and industrialized texture rather than what we’re familiar with as a paint texture.”

David Benrimon Fine Art featured the Water Lilies series in our Lichtenstein: Reflections on Pop exhibition in 2014.

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