Leo Castelli Gallery (LC D-498), New York
Galerie Beyeler, Basel
Private collection, since 1995
Chicago Art Fair, May 1995
Andros, Museum of Contemporary Art-Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Glancing at the Century, 28 June – 20 September 1998, pp. 132-133, ill. p. 133
Nude with white flower is a preparatory collage for the work Nude with yellow flower, an oil on canvas. It belongs to the series of nudes between 1993 until the artist’s death in 1997. The Nudes had also appeared in the 1960’s. Their source of inspiration were the romance comics published by the company DC Comics, aiming at an adolescent, mostly female audience. The narrative superficiality of these publications was however of no interest to Lichtenstein. As he himself confessed in many interviews, his attraction was only of aesthetic nature.
Lichtenstein’s pictorial technique has always been extremely elaborate, requiring various steps. In the case of collage, as a step of the creative process, Lichtenstein first drew the outlines in pencil, then enhanced them with black adhesive tape, perfecting and thinning its curves. He filled the rest of his composition with more or less large pieces of paper, previously painted or printed, seeking thus to reproduce the chromatic scale first contemplated in pencil. In the Nude with white flower, the most bluish surface, located on an islet and marked out by large diagonals on the model’s left side, is in fact a double application of Ben Day dots in stencil. Only the eyes, the lips and the flower reveal the underlying paper and the manual aspect of the painter’s work.
From the initial image of the comic that inspired the artist, only few things still remain. Speech bubbles and photographic studio accessories disappear; the location is a prosperous-looking interior. The young woman is relieved of her swimsuit, her hair is placed on the right side and no longer with a stiff set, her old dial phone is replaced by a mobile and the cable she distractedly holds with her left hand is replaced by a flower, a fact that makes the composition even less realistic. Lichtenstein emphasizes the sexualization of this feminine figure, initially shown with a cloying sensuality. The woman’s figure reveals a new face of femininity, she is self-confident and finally relieved from the male presence.
Lichtenstein did not start his undertaking by choosing a main subject. As usual, it is something that concerned him very little. It is rather the sterile treatment of an image present in the collective unconscious and the elaboration of a composition that would reverse this so attractive cliché inspiring him. The apparent superficiality becomes an instrument in order to achieve a much more ambivalent result.