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Submitted by on Apr 20, 2020

Brushstrokes is a pop art oil painting from 1965 and Magna on canvas by Roy Lichtenstein. It is the first element in the Brushstrokes series of works which includes several paintings and sculptures. As with all of his Brushstrokes works, it is in part a satirical response to the body painting of abstract expressionism.

Before producing his first Brushstrokes work, Lichtenstein turned his upcoming work as a “satirical sending of abstract expressionism” by saying: “Now thinking of doing something about abstract expressionism … The problem here will be to paint a brushstroke, a picture of a brushstroke … deliberately poured paint and things, you know, where the drips are actually drawn drips that look like drops of water drawn by an artist commercial.”

Despite the initial objective of parodying abstract expressionism, the source of the first Brushstrokes work was a comic strip. Measuring 122.5 cm × 122.5 cm (48.25 inches × 48.25 inches), Brushstrokes was the first item in the Brushstrokes series. The source of the entire Brushstrokes series was Strange Suspense Stories 72 by Charlton Comics (October 1964) by Dick Giordano. According to the Lichtenstein Foundation, in addition to this painting called Brush Strokes, there is also both a sculpture and a screen print of the same name. There is also “Brushstrokes 1970”. The Lichtenstein Foundation website also notes that he began creating the Brushstrokes painting in the fall of 1965 and presented the Brushstroke series at the Castelli gallery from November 20 to December 11.

As with many comic book-based works, the connection to the source is evident in Brushstrokes. This work describes a cropped derivation of the source image. In Brushstrokes, as in its source, a hand holds a house painter’s brush in the lower left corner of the image, while in the upper right, some strokes of paint as well as splashes of paint are presented . Lichtenstein chose this source because he “… liked the summary rendering of the hand holding the brush and the way in which the cartoonist indicated the painting”. The three strokes at the top right are the dominant images, while the partial view of the hand at the bottom left bounded by the edges of the canvas shows paint dripping with the brush.

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