Composition I 1996 is one of three screenprints published by Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles and recorded in the second volume of the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s prints (Corlett and Fine 2002), the other two being Composition II 1996 and Composition III 1996. In these prints Lichtenstein presented arrangements of curving and looping musical staves; no longer fixed on their usual horizontal, linear orientation, the musical notation is set free. Two of the prints – Composition I and Composition III – are vertical in format, while Composition II has a landscape format. The notes and curving staves are set against area of primary colours and the artist’s signature diagonal lines and dots. Music was one of Lichtenstein’s great loves – he played the flute and saxophone and was particularly interested in jazz. These images therefore respond to the freedom and improvisatory nature of this form of music, as well as pointing to the artist’s own exploration of visual composition.

Lichtenstein was born in New York, and was a central player in American pop art. He came to prominence in the 1960s, making works based on imagery from comic strips. In these works he used the Benday dot, common to newspaper and magazine reproduction, to produce works that appeared mechanically reproduced, and which in fact are even more stylised than the cartoons Lichtenstein appropriated. Printmaking was an integral part of his practice throughout his career from the late 1950s through to the 1990s.

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Roy Lichtenstein