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in the car 1964 POP Art Painting by Roy Lichtenstein

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in the car 1964 POP Art Oil Painting
Keywords: 1964 Art   POP Painting  

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in the car 1964 POP Art - Lichtenstein Paintings for Sale

In the Car
Artist Roy Lichtenstein
Year 1963
Movement Pop art
Dimensions 172 cm × 203.5 cm (67.75 in × 80.125 in)
Location Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art 1 of 2 copies

In the Car (sometimes Driving)[1] is a 1963 pop art painting by Roy Lichtenstein. The smaller, older of the two versions of this painting formerly held the record for highest auction price for a Lichtenstein painting. The larger version has been in the collection of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh since 1980.

The painting is based on the September 1961 comic book series Girls' Romances edition #78 published by Signal Publishing Corp.[5] The painting was part of Lichtenstein's second solo exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery from September 28 to October 24, 1963 that included Drowning Girl, Torpedo...Los!, Baseball Manager, Conversation, and Whaam![6][7] Marketing materials for the show included the lithograph artwork, Crak![8][9]

The smaller version, which was the original version, from the estate of Roy Lichtenstein and consigned by his son Mitchell Lichtenstein, was sold in 2005.[4] On November 8, 2005, it surpassed the previous Lichtenstein work record auction price of $7.1 million set when Happy Tears sold three years earlier (November 13, 2002). In the Car sold for $16.2 million at Christie's auction house in New York City.[10][11] In November 2010, this figure was surpassed when Ohhh...Alright... was sold for a record US $42.6 million (£26.7 million), also at Christie's in New York.[12] The hammer price was $38 million.

After 1972, Lichtenstein's comics-based women "look hard, crisp, brittle, and uniformly modish in appearance, as if they all came out of the same pot of makeup." This particular example is one of several that is cropped so closely that the hair flows beyond the edges of the canvas.[14] As with most of his early romance comics, this consisted of "a boy and a girl" subject.[15] It is described as a tense, melodramatic graphic single-frame depiction of a romantic dialogue between a man and woman.[4] Lichtenstein used horizontal parallel lines to convey the sense of motion.[16] A November 1963 Art Magazine review stated that this was one of the "broad and powerful paintings" of the 1963 exhibition at Castelli's Gallery.[7]

In the early 1960s, Lichtenstein produced several "fantasy drama" paintings of women in love affairs with domineering men causing the women to be miserable, such as Drowning Girl, Hopeless and In the Car. These works served as prelude to 1964 paintings of innocent "girls next door" in a variety of tenuous emotional states.[17] "In the Car evokes a mood of resignation, with silence apparently prevailing as the woman stares stonily out the window."[17] The painting gives off a feeling of chilly emotions between the man and the woman in the car.

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This painting is one of a series from the early 1960s in which Lichtenstein deals with the theme of romance. He would paint his works on a monumental scale, much enlarged from his original source material of comic-strip illustrations. This work is based on an image from the comic Girls' Romances. The original illustration included a thought bubble which read, 'I vowed to myself I would not miss my appointment – That I would not go riding with him – Yet before I knew it…' His paintings present archetypal images of contemporary America, simultaneously glamorous, mundane, dramatic and impersonal. Lichtenstein conveys the essence of the time, depicting recognisable 'types', such as the beautiful blonde woman and handsome, square-jawed man seen in this painting.

In the early 1960s, Roy Lichtenstein began the series of comic-book paintings for which he is now best known. Using war and romance comics as his source, he translated images of love-torn young women and daring war heroes onto large-scale canvases that blaze with colour and energy. His appropriation of a cartoon-book graphic style and the banality of his choice of subjects was immediately controversial, and even critics sympathetic to the idea of Pop Art were suspicious of this apparent counterfeiting of commercial imagery. Lichtenstein himself, however, deliberately played on the contradiction between low and high art, finding irony and a certain wry humour in the elevation of mass culture into the realm of refined taste.

Lichtenstein was trained in drawing and painting but, like his contemporary Andy Warhol, he spent some of his early years working as a commercial artist. In New York in 1951, he showed paintings in what he later described as ‘the abstract expressionist idiom’. Later, he began to introduce cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck into his expressionist pictures. Eventually he abandoned painterly abstraction in favour of images drawn directly from everyday sources such as advertising, comic strips and product packaging. He developed a completely new style of primary colours, flat backgrounds and heavy black outlines. The impact of his comic-book paintings depends in part on the precision of his technique and his mimicry of the ink dots and graphic effects of the cartoon style. An initial sketch of his source material was enlarged onto a canvas and then coloured in, often with the aid of a stencil to re-create the Ben-Day dots that characterise the mechanical printing process of the original comics.

In the Car is among the most striking and memorable of his early comic-book pictures. It is based on a comic strip entitled ‘Tomorrow and Tomorrow’ that appeared in the September 1961 issue of Girls’ Romances. The original strip carried a text showing the woman’s thoughts: ‘I vowed to myself I would not miss my appointment – That I would not go riding with him – Yet before I knew it …’ Lichtenstein omitted this ‘thought-bubble’ from his picture, focusing instead on the close-up view of the handsome, square-jawed man who sneaks a glance at his pretty, blonde companion. Wrapped in her leopard-skin coat, she remains aloof, staring straight ahead out the windscreen. Every aspect of the image is steeped in cliché, from the male/female stereotypes to the speeding car, the great symbol of American post-war culture. Yet despite its source in a ten-cent love comic, it is impossible not to get drawn into the boy-girl relationship at play here. Lichtenstein always stressed that he was making some­thing independent that became remote from its original comic-book context; as he later explained, ‘Once I am involved with the painting I think of it as an abstraction.’ He played down the importance of any narrative content and emphasised instead his search to create harmonious, unified compositions. Nevertheless his deadpan, impersonal style actually ends up heighten­ing the emotional intensity of his image, a paradox that Lichtenstein clearly enjoyed.

 

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