Robert Indiana (1928-2018) The Book of Love, 1996

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Lot 56
Robert Indiana
The Book of Love, 1996

£ 90,000 - 120,000
US$ 130,000 - 170,000
Robert Indiana (1928-2018)
The Book of Love, 1996
each screenprint signed, dated and numbered 17/200 in pencil, each poem initialled and dated in pencil
the set of 12 screenprints in colours and 12 poems with embossing on A.N.W. Crestwood Museum paper, loose (as issued) in the original brown paper-covered portfolio
61 x 51cm (24 x 20 1/16in).


  • Robert Indiana was one of the key figures of the Pop Art movement in America, acclaimed for his simple striking images, vivid use of colour and works employing words and numbers and best known for his iconic LOVE image. This was produced in a series of prints, paintings, sculptures and even stamps, which quickly pervaded popular consciousness in the 1960s and became one of the most recognizable images of Post-war art.

    A self-proclaimed 'American painter of signs', Indiana was inspired by the images of his Midwestern childhood, using the everyday symbols of roadside America such as highway road signs, billboards and commercial logos to create a bold, graphic style . Two held a particular resonance for the artist, the 'EAT' sign above the diner where his mother worked and 'PHILLIPS 66', the oil company his father worked for, with its striking red and green logo. Both were to influence his choice of colour and the incorporation of words and numbers into his work. The colours later used for Love were described by Indiana as "the red and green of that sign against the blue Hoosier sky".

    Arriving in New York in 1954, Indiana subscribed to the Hard-Edge school of painting, which employs sharp lines to separate blocks of colour and experiments with geometric shapes. He met and fell in love with Ellsworth Kelly who was an exponent of this technique and was a major influence on Indiana. Kelly's painting Red Blue Green (1963) is believed to be the partial inspiration for the Love colour palette.

    In New York Indiana joined a community of artists in Coenties Slip, an abandoned port in southeast Manhattan, whose warehouses provided materials which could be used in the creation of sculptural works. Here, he found some 19th Century brass stencils, which prompted him to start using numbers and words in his work and to create his own distinctive style.

    The first appearance of LOVE was a 1961 painting, 4-Star Love, in which four stars are stacked above the word 'Love', which would provide the inspiration for stacking the letters in the subsequent images. The next incarnation was the 1964 painting, Love Is God, inspired by the inscription 'God is Love' seen in the Christian Science churches he had attended with his mother. In 1964 the Museum of Modern Art in New York commissioned Indiana to design its Christmas card. Inspired by his paintings, he chose the word LOVE, with the LO and VE stacked on top of one another to fit the square format of the card and slanted the 'O' to create extra visual interest and kept to minimal vibrant colours. He offered several colour combinations and the museum chose the red letters on a blue and green background. The result was the best-selling Christmas card in the museum's history and the cementing of an iconic image in the public consciousness. It symbolized the timeless and universal emotions of affection, hope and optimism. For Indiana, the image carried a Christian message of brotherly love, but on a personal level, it was also an expression of his love for Ellsworth Kelly.

    The Book of Love Portfolio was the culmination of decades of work devoted to this subject, fulfilling the artist's passion for the interplay between words and images. It contains twelve screenprints in diverse colour combinations, which illustrate his twelve poems, written between 1958 and 1973. These contemplate the nature of love and forgiveness, and contain the idea of love as a driving force in artistic endeavour.

    LOVE was emblematic of the idealism and free-love of the 1960s. Indiana's mastery of colour and use of words to explore themes of identity and love meant that the work achieved a universal popularity and secured its status as an icon of 20th Century art.

    In the artist's own words, "The LOVE is a concrete poem as far as I'm concerned. Just a one word poem. Love is a noun and a verb and so one must decide what my love is. It's a command, love, and it's a subject, love."
Robert Indiana (1928-2018) The Book of Love, 1996
Robert Indiana (1928-2018) The Book of Love, 1996
Robert Indiana (1928-2018) The Book of Love, 1996
Robert Indiana (1928-2018) The Book of Love, 1996
Robert Indiana (1928-2018) The Book of Love, 1996
Robert Indiana (1928-2018) The Book of Love, 1996
Robert Indiana (1928-2018) The Book of Love, 1996
Robert Indiana (1928-2018) The Book of Love, 1996
Robert Indiana (1928-2018) The Book of Love, 1996
Robert Indiana (1928-2018) The Book of Love, 1996
Robert Indiana (1928-2018) The Book of Love, 1996
Robert Indiana (1928-2018) The Book of Love, 1996
Robert Indiana (1928-2018) The Book of Love, 1996
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