Corlett Catalogue Raisonné of the Prints of Roy Lichtenstein

I.12. Expressionist Woodcut Series, 1980

Corlett 172–178

Lichtenstein’s interest in the German Expressionist theme was inspired in part by his visit in 1978 to the Robert Gore Rifkind Collection of German Expressionist graphic art in Los Angeles, where, in addition to studying the prints, he had a lengthy conversation with the collector about printmaking. (Barron 1982, p. 64–65.)

Lichtenstein began exploring the vocabulary of German Expressionism in painting in 1979. As Cowart points out, Lichtenstein used dots sparingly in these compositions, because their effect is not expressionist (Cowart 1981b, p. 136). The same is true of the prints, where no dots are used at all. The prints and paintings share some of the same subjects, such as Dr. Waldmann, but the compositions are not the same.

Work on the print series began during the winter of 1980. It was Gemini G.E.L.’s first major woodcut project. Baltic birch was chosen for its hardness, and Lichtenstein cut the block across the grain to minimize printed texture. Lichtenstein hand-cut all of the lines, and the Gemini staff cleared broad areas of the blocks. The paper used is heavier than the traditional Oriental papers usually used for woodcuts. The heavy paper, along with the large scale of the prints, necessitated the use of a lithography press to achieve the proper even pressure. The paper was embossed after printing, to restore the texture that was pressed out during the printing process. (See Fine 1984, p. 202, and Barron 1982, p. 65. PCN 1980b notes that Lichtenstein had broadened his palette in this series to include, for example, the yellow used in Reclining Nude.)

In 1982 Lichtenstein told Deborah Phillips: “I want a mechanical image in my prints. But after a while, I was able to achieve that technical quality too easily. Woodcuts resist that. I like the way you have to fight against the block to get the image you want.…It’s a real feat to see if you can make a woodcut without getting a woodcut quality.” (D. Phillips 1982, p. 93.)

In 1981 a small black-state edition was published for each image in this series.

(Corlett 2002, p. 163)