Saturday, October 29, 2011

Nakedly Nude, II: The Through-Line from Cézanne and Matisse to Roy Lichtenstein

Dorothy Lichtenstein told the art critic Michael Kimmelman that, in his last year, her husband Roy was working on paintings of women "derived from Cézanne's bathers ... which he was thinking of developing into a whole series of works when he fell ill" (The New York Times, January 4, 1998).  I was surprised when I ran across this remark; I hadn't seen any works by Lichtenstein that seemed influenced by anyone but Picasso. So I looked around and found two sets of drawings and paintings that I find just gorgeous.

Here is Matisse's "Blue Nude," from 1907:

This continues that conversation (the entry of October 27) about the angular, un-idealized nude, women who are really -- purely -- naked.  Now look at Lichtenstein's "Collage for Still Life with Reclining Nude" from 1997:

Lichtenstein re-creates Matisse's figure here; but he also opens up the view behind her. This open window is also Matissean, French plane trees and views out a shuttered window to the Mediterranean.  Rpy Lichtenstein is coming back full circle, to people whose work he barely mentions in interviews. Now look at Cézanne's "Large Bathers," a painting from 1899-1906:

Cézanne painted several of these studies of monumental figures posed against trees, with a tunnel out to a larger plain or river. Now here is Lichtenstein's "Landscape with Figures," this one from 1980:

And here is his "Collage for Interior with Painting of Bather" from 1997, as he was returning to the same theme:

This bather is more nude than naked, more stylized, like Lichtenstein's early women from comic books. The artist is still experimenting ...  but see how the model's surroundings have changed since those early enclosed squares with speech bubbles. She is reclining -- in a painting? out of an open window? -- somewhere near Aix-en-Provence, and she doesn't need to say anything.

No comments:

Post a Comment