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Published: 28 July 2017

Pop Art at Auction

The Pop Art movement emerged in the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  The artists associated with Pop challenged traditional notions of fine art and sought inspiration from the contemporary world around them, namely from commonplace commercial objects, advertisements and mass media.  Favoring bold primary colors and straightforward imagery, their work reflected the current popular culture, at once inviting joyful humor and posing larger questions about the role of consumerism in American society.

In addition to its significant place within art history, Pop Art continues to be a vital force within the market.  Freeman’s has had the privilege of handing notable examples by some of the most important artists within this movement.  Over the years, we have found great success with works by Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg, amongst others.  Below are highlights of Pop Art sold at Freeman’s in recent years.

 

Andy Warhol, “Marilyn Monroe
Sold for $231,750

There is no name more synonymous with Pop Art than Andy Warhol; and of his portraits, there is no more famous an image than Marilyn Monroe. Warhol’s fascination with celebrity started when he was a teenager and extended into his art with portraits of Grace Kelly, Mao Tse-Tung, and Liz Taylor to name a few. 

Warhol’s first depiction of Marilyn, “Marilyn Diptych,” was done soon after her death.  Lauded by art critics, it is one of the most recognizable images not only within the artist’s oeuvre, but within the canon of contemporary art.  Warhol often revisited favorite subjects, and in 1967 he created a portfolio of “Marilyn” screenprints, of which this example – with its hot pink background – is perhaps the most desirable. 

Roy Lichtenstein, “Water Lilies”
Sold for $612,200

Roy Lichtenstein is perhaps best known for his depictions of subjects drawn from comic strips and advertisements.   “Water Lilies”, however, dates from later in the artist’s career when he began to imitate iconic images from art history, such as Pablo Picasso’s abstract faces.  In this work, Lichtenstein found inspiration in Claude Monet’s iconic “Water Lilies” paintings, paying homage to the Impressionist master while infusing the work with his own unique Pop sensibilities.

Lichtenstein, “Nude Reading”
Sold for $111,750

Like many of Lichtenstein’s works, “Nude Reading” was inspired by classic comic book imagery.  In particular, this print is based upon a similar image in the DC Comic book, Girl Romances.  Displaying the artist’s signature Ben-Day dots, “Nude Reading” is a classic Lichtenstein composition.  An early edition of this print hangs in the Tate Modern.

Tom Wesselmann, “Study for Blue Nude”
Sold for $87,500
 

Tom Wesselmann’s visual lexicon is one of the most iconic and instantly recognizable of any artist working in the twentieth century. He is best known for his paintings from the Great American Nude series of the early 1960s, in which the female nude is portrayed in intense, bright (often patriotic) colors and exaggerated flattened forms.  Executed later in the artist’s career, “Study for a Blue Nude” is a softer more intimate example of Wesselmann’s depiction of the female nude.

Tom Wesselmann “Face #1”
Sold for $958,000

“Face #1” is an impressively sized oil on shaped canvas.  Executed in 1966, it represents a rich and seminal period of the artist’s career. During this time, Wesselmann focused his interest on the nude with greater specificity, moving away from a complete representation of the figure and concentrating on specific, highly sexualized elements of the female form, such as the mouth and breast. 

Wesselmann’s decision to use shaped canvases to portray these forms gave these paintings a sculptural quality, which – in turn – imbued them with a particularly active energy that served to heighten their bold sensuality. “Face No. 1” is an excellent example of the artist’s work of this period. The woman’s face is only partially shown, the artist choosing to emphasize her mouth, with her bright red lips erotically parted and painted with fetishistic focus against a highly sexualized cut-out relief. 

Claes Oldenburg “Clothes Pin”
Sold for $373,000

Like many pop artists, Claes Oldenburg often depicted ordinary objects, favoring food or tools such as a spoon or a saw. The statue here is a model for his larger-than-life public work, “Clothes Pin,” that sits outside Philadelphia’s City Hall SEPTA station. The “Clothes Pin” is a signature of Center City scenery. The pin’s spring resembles the numbers “76,” a reference to the country’s founding year. The stature, like Pop Art as a whole, is an attempt to democratize art, using the visual language of modern times.

 

Freeman’s is currently accepting consignments for the Fall Modern + Contemporary Art auction.
Get a complimentary auction estimate and more information here.

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