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ROY LICHTENSTEIN Composition (Picture without a Frame).
Oil on paste board with paper collage, mounted on wood panel with metal screws, 1955. 480x520 mm; 19x20 1/4 inches. Signed in oil, upper right recto. Ex-collection Professor and Mrs. Roy H. Pearce, Columbus, OH, and La Jolla, CA, acquired directly from the artist.
Published in Busche, Roy Lichtenstein: Das Fruhwerk, 1942-60, Berlin, 1988, page 183, number 178.
This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné in preparation by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, New York, and is archived on the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation website.
Roy Pearce (1919-2012) was a professor of literature and one of the founders of the University of California, San Diego, Literature Department in 1963. Prior to moving to California, Pearce taught at Ohio State University, where he met and befriended Lichtenstein, who earned his bachelor's degree there in 1946 and a Master's in Fine Arts degree in 1949 (Lichtenstein also taught as an instructor in the fine arts dpeartment at Ohio State, a post he held intermitently during the 1950s). In 1951, Lichtenstein and his first wife, Isabel Wilson, moved to Cleveland and he had his first solo exhibition at the Carlebach Gallery, New York.
During his time in Cleveland, Lichtenstein pursued Native American-themed subjects in his paintings, drawings and prints. He was inspired by a book he had borrowed from Pearce on the art of the 19th century American painter George Caitlin, who specialized in Native American scenes and portraits. According to a New York Times interview in 2005, Lichtenstein referred to his 1950s paintings as, "Taking the kind of stodgy pictures you see in history textbooks and redoing them in a modern-art way." These early paintings, appropriated from 19th century models, are important thematic and stylistic precursors to Lichtenstein's comic strip-inspired subjects from the early 1960s onward, which are seminal works in the American Pop Art canon.