Sun rises on Lichtenstein pair at Heritage; paintings may bring $600,000

DALLAS – Roy Lichtenstein’s 1964 ink and graphite on paper masterpiece, “Sunrise; Sunset,” is expected to realize more than $400,000 when it crosses the auction block as the lead lot in Heritage Auctions’ Oct. 23 Modern & Contemporary Art Signature Auction.

“In 1964, Fiddler On The Roof was the toast of Broadway, where it went on to win nine Tony Awards, one of which was for Best Musical,” said Frank Hettig, director of Modern & Contemporary Art at Heritage. “The Act 1 closer, ‘Sunrise, Sunset,’ was a pop-culture phenomenon and one of the Broadway canon’s most memorable tunes. Certainly Lichtenstein was aware of this popular and infectious tune when he created this remarkable set of drawings with the same title.”


Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923-1997), “Sunrise; Sunset” (two works), 1964, ink and graphite on paper, each 21 inches by 30 inches, estimated at $400,000 to $600,000.

By the time this reductive painting emerged from Lichtenstein’s mind, three important things had occurred in his life: He had separated from his first wife, Isabel, and moved back to Manhattan; he had resigned from teaching at Douglass College to pursue art full time; and he had begun the break from painting the cartoons containing dialogue boxes complete with text, which were so prevalent in his oeuvre the prior couple of years, starting with “Look Mickey” in 1961.

“In fact, words were rarely appearing in his paintings in 1964 and, by 1966, were totally eliminated from his paintings and were never seen again,” said Hettig. “It was also in ’64 that he started painting landscapes, utilizing classical subject matter and morphing it to his own purposes.”

The landscape, like the cartoon, was soon to be distilled to its basics and handled in Lichtenstein’s ingenious way. He stopped using window screens to create the uniformity of the famous Benday dots he desired in his paintings, even varying the size of the dots.
“Sunrise; Sunset is doubly important because it represents the first time the Benday dot grew to an enormous proportion, which was then cropped to form the Sun in this work,” added Hettig. “Even the ultimate power source of the world had now become a cropped Benday dot.”

Another top highlight of the auction comes in the form of the recently uncovered Richard Diebenkorn painting, “Untitled,” circa 1951 (estimate $150,000 and up), a work by the master missing from the total census of his work until it was found to be in the Texas-based collection of the consignor. “This is a great find and speaks to the depth of the collections, and to the discerning eyes of collectors, in Texas,” said Hettig. “This is a piece that was well-cared for and well-loved over the decades and, now, stands as a great investment for the family that has been its steward all these years.”

One of the most interesting lots in the Oct. 24 event is a working maquette for a Salvador Dalí exhibition, April 14 to May 5, 1943, at the Galleries of M. Knoedler and Co. Inc. New York. The piece, expected to bring $40,000 or more, was created using a catalog for a previous El Greco loan exhibition at Knoedler and contains 16 original tipped-in sketches, 13 of which are sepia pen while three are ink and three are pencil. It also contains annotations in both Dalí’s hand and that of his wife, Gala.

The lots will be offered at the next Modern & Contemporary Art auction, taking place at the company’s Design District Annex, 1518 Slocum St. For more details, visit Heritage.

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