It is an attempt to classicise a romantic notion…When I use it in a painting, it is to express the conflict of quasi-expressionistic technique and commercial motif…I am thrilled about the idea of Brushstrokes made of false Brushstrokes. I’m impressed by how artificial things can look. I try to be as stylised as I can get away with. (Roy Lichtenstein, quoted in: Gianni Mercurio, Roy Lichtenstein – Meditations on Art, La Triennale di Milano, 2010, p. 221)
The composition for View from the Window is loosely based on Max Beckmann’s painting Evening on the Terrace (Collection Richard L. Feigen, New York), a view of the Dutch seaside resort of Scheveningen painted in 1928. Lichtenstein’s large format mixed-media print belongs to a series called Landscapes, begun in 1984, in which the artist revisited landscape paintings by modern masters, rendering them in his signature cartoon-like brushstrokes. His homage is full of whimsy and humour. Whilst Beckmann’s view is dark and brooding, Lichtenstein’s treatment evokes the sunny Mediterranean of Matisse and the Fauves, an art historical quip and playful subversion of the Expressionist’s original intent. This effect is achieved with a much wider range of colours than in his earlier prints, with pastel pinks, blues, greens, yellows and metallic silver, supplementing his staple palette of primary colours.
Riva Castleman notes that in his Landscapes Lichtenstein departs from the isolated ‘abstract’ brushstroke of his earlier oeuvre, and instead employs the strokes to define a scene, an open window with a bunch of flowers, looking onto a view of sea and sky, with the sail of a boat in the distance. ‘However much it may be presumed that the artist now conveys depth and atmosphere where he always distinguished his work as flat and made with marks that emphasised and maintained that flatness’, Castleman continues, 'his methods remain the same, but demonstrate that even compositions that presume to give the impression of near and far are still marks on a flat surface. The marks that make the boat are little different from those that make the frame of the window or the adjacent water…the Landscapes accentuate the preposterous conventions of picture-making itself’. (Riva Castleman, Seven Master Print-Makers – Innovations in the Eighties, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, exh. cat. 1991, p. 92).
Roy Lichtenstein’s Haystack Series (1969) was inspired after a trip to Paris upon seeing Monet’s Impressionistic painting of haystacks from 1891, one of the seminal series of early modern art. Whether the artist was Monet or Picasso, or the art was cartoons, Lichtenstein made a career out of referencing other artists and schools in his work. Context was everything, and Lichtenstein boldly addressed his generation’s notion of high art and the idea of mechanical reproduction accordingly. In his pursuit to blur the line between high art and low art, originality vs. reproduction, he succeeded in convincing the world that all is art. In Haystack, Lichtenstein makes Claude Monet as iconographic as Mickey Mouse. Lichtenstein’s interpretation of Monet’s Haystacks is a Pop Art homage to the French impressionist. Monet’s loose brushstrokes are replaced with the exactness of Lichtenstein’s signature Benday dots, creating the iconic post-war, comic book aesthetic. In an interview with John Coplans, Lichtenstein compared Monet’s Haystack paintings to his prints: “The prints are a little smaller, but that’s not significant. The paintings are all different images. In terms of exactness of placement and register, the prints are better, because they can be better controlled in this medium. Working on canvas isn’t controllable in the same way…The prints are all worked out beforehand and appear purer” (Corlett 65-74). In his original Impressionist paintings, Monet depicted a cluster of haystacks across various times of the day to draw attention to the relationship between color and light. Lichtenstein’s Haystack similarly run from morning (yellow) to midnight (black); there are ten prints in the series. For the series, he created a full-scale black-ink drawing, which was used to create the image on the plates. A negative of the drawing was laid over the Benday dot stencil on the sensitized plates, recreating the pattern in the positive plate when it was exposed to light.