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Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923–1997)
LOT ID: 77426
Explosion, 1967

Lithograph
22 х 17 in. (55.88 x 43.18 cm.)
Signed, stamped, "rf Lichtenstein" in pencil, lower right; numbered in pencil lower left; bears the distinctive blind stamp of the publisher in the lower right.
Edition 69/100
Foundry/Publisher Hollander Workshop New York, Irwin Hollander, NY
Lot description
Roy Lichtenstein's striking "Explosion" is a rare and iconic print from the most desirable and influential era in Pop Art history - the fabulous Sixties.

This lithograph in 3 colors (yellow, red and blue) on hand made Rives paper with deckled edges is from the relatively small limited edition of only 100 - most of which are now off the market and in major institutional collections. It was created as part of the legendary "Portfolio 9" from the mid-Sixties, and was housed in a gray cloth-colored box with maroon paper inner panels and a large maroon "9" designed by Richard Lindner on the cover. Portfolio 9 featured nine of the most important artists of the era: Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, Sam Francis, Louise Nevelson, Saul Steinberg, Richard Lindner, Robert Motherwell, Ellsworth Kelly and Henry Pearson. The Introduction to the portfolio was written by Una E. Johnson, Curator of Prints & Drawings, The Brooklyn Museum. Wrote Johnson in 1967 for the colophon page: "The artists were selected to demonstrate the great diversity and character of lithography in the United States today...they reflect in fine measure the creative achievements of artists attuned to their time.."

However, it is Lichtenstein's "Explosion", with its "explosive immediacy of statement", as Johnson wrote, that has become the most celebrated and emblematic image of the entire portfolio. 25 years later, Irwin Hollander would describe this print as "pure, simple lithography" with fuschia squeegeed through a grid directly onto the plate to create the dots.

And nearly half a century later, this print has become more scarce, as so many of the 100 are already in the collections of major museums world wide. The Tate Gallery, which features "Explosion" in its permanent collection, describes its historical importance: "Beginning in 1962, Lichtenstein borrowed images of explosions from popular war comics for use in his paintings. The subject embodies the revolutionary nature of Pop art and suggests the very real threat of annihilation by nuclear explosion that was prevalent at that time (the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in 1962). But Lichtenstein was also interested in the way dynamic events like explosions were depicted in the stylized format of comic book illustration. This print incorporates many of the hallmarks of his early painting style: flat primary colors, Benday dots, outlines and schematic drawing."
Indeed, during the Sixties Lichtenstein explored the theme of the "Explosion" in all different media - print, painting and sculpture; it was an enduring motif that he would reprise later in his career - as when he created the "Explosion" design for the 1996 New York State Governor's Arts Award.

In 1984, the Museum of Modern Art acquired an edition of "Explosion" (from the John B. Turner fund) and the image was selected as the cover of one of the Museum's best-selling holiday greeting cards that remain popular to this day.

Lichtenstein's "Explosion" has also been featured in numerous gallery and museum exhibitions worldwide, and is often included in books and catalogues of the most important Pop Art prints of the Sixties. Indeed, no retrospective of Lichtenstein's prints would be complete without an edition of "Explosion".

The lithograph offered here has superb provenance: it comes directly from Portfolio 9, numbered 69/100. It was housed in the original large 1967 presentation box, along with the lithographed colophon page. "Explosion" is in excellent condition.

This uncommon work is fully referenced with a full page reproduction in "The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonne 1948-1993", Figure 49 on page 86, published by Hudson Hill Press.

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Explosion by Roy Lichtenstein
  • Explosion by Roy Lichtenstein
  • Explosion by Roy Lichtenstein
  • Explosion by Roy Lichtenstein
  • Explosion by Roy Lichtenstein
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