Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) WHAAM!, 1967 63.4 x 74.4cm (25 x 29 1/4in)(each panel) (published by the Tate Gallery, London, 1988)

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Lot 19
Roy Lichtenstein
(1923-1997)
WHAAM!, 1967 63.4 x 74.4cm (25 x 29 1/4in)(each panel)

Sold for £ 21,500 (US$ 23,776) inc. premium
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
WHAAM!, 1967
signed in pencil recto and numbered 21 verso on the right panel
offset lithograph in colours on two sheets of wove paper
63.4 x 74.4cm (25 x 29 1/4in)(each panel)
published by the Tate Gallery, London, 1988

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Old Master, Modern and Cotemporary prints, Christie's London, lot 574.
    Acquired from the above sale by the present owner.

    Literature
    Mary Lee Corlett, The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein, Hudson Hills Press, New York, 1994, no. C.App.7, p325

    The Tate Gallery published several editions of this lithograph between 1967 and 1988, reproducing the original painting in their collection and this is from the edition of 3000 published in 1988 (copy 3M488).
    This impression is one of 25 produced to raise funds for the American Indian Program and is inscribed signed in support of the Artists for American Indian Programs, Princess Pale Moon, American Indian Heritage Foundation in pencil on the reverse of the right panel.

    WHAAM! is the quintessential work of Pop Art, an arresting and instantly recognizable image by one of the major exponents of the genre, taking inspiration from popular and commercial culture and challenging the artistic conventions of the 1960s by elevating the humble disposable comic strip to the status of a serious work of art.

    Lichtenstein appreciated comic strips for "their strength, aggressiveness and energy". For WHAAM!, he adapted an illustration in the 1962 comic book All-American Men of War, which showed an American fighter jet destroying an enemy plane. Lichtenstein's interpretation is simplified with bold primary colours outlined in black and economical use of narrative, with the onomatopoeic lettering WHAAM! placed for maximum impact.

    The artist also employed his trademark Ben-day dots which are carefully spaced and overlapped to simulate colour variations and create form, emulating the process by which comic books are printed. The original composition was conceived as one panel. However, Lichtenstein decided that the work would have more impact as a diptych, separating the action from its explosive consequence, whilst maintaining a visual connection via the smoke trail.

    Lichtenstein's military service during World War II and the looming spectre of the Vietnam war influenced his choice of subject, which could be regarded as a comment on the folly of war. He later remarked "At that time I was interested in anything I could use as a subject that was emotionally strong – usually love, war, or something that was highly-charged and emotional subject matter".

    The translation of a mass-produced commercial comic book image into the main subject for an artwork was considered a bold move, but for Lichtenstein the cartoon style was the perfect vehicle to challenge traditional opinions on what constitutes art and to confound the expectations of the viewer. Although the comic strip was perhaps a lowly-regarded genre, it had a place in popular culture, expressing and influencing the American dream, and WHAAM! sits firmly within this tradition.

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Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) WHAAM!, 1967 63.4 x 74.4cm (25 x 29 1/4in)(each panel) (published by the Tate Gallery, London, 1988)
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) WHAAM!, 1967 63.4 x 74.4cm (25 x 29 1/4in)(each panel) (published by the Tate Gallery, London, 1988)
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