Corlett Catalogue Raisonné of the Prints of Roy Lichtenstein

I.3. Haystack Series and Cathedral Series, 1969

Corlett 65–74; 75–82

Lichtenstein’s Haystacks and Cathedrals were his first collaboration with Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles, from January to July 1969 for the Haystacks, and until August for the Cathedrals.

There are ten prints in the Haystack series, including three state editions (RLCR 1659–1668) produced from the plates used for Haystack #6. The first five prints in the series are executed in lithography, with white screenprinted borders that heighten the optical effects of the colors. The seventh print in the series is a relief print.

Lichtenstein began exploring Monet’s haystacks as a subject in his painting in 1968 and continued to paint them into 1969, when the prints were produced. In an interview with John Coplans, Lichtenstein compared the Haystack paintings and 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 paintings bear the tracks of corrections of various things. The prints are all worked out beforehand and appear purer.” (Coplans 1970b, p. 264–65. See also Tuten 1969 reprinted in Coplans 1972a, p. 95–99; R. Cohen 1985b, p. 165.)

In the Cathedral series there are eight prints, including two state editions (RLCR 1645 and 1646) produced from the plates used for Cathedral #6. Cathedral #1 has a screenprinted border. Lichtenstein’s Rouen cathedral paintings were begun, like the Haystack paintings, in 1968, and he continued working on them while the print series was in progress.

For both series, Lichtenstein 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 Lichtenstein’s Benday dot stencil on the sensitized plates, recreating the pattern in the positive plate when it was exposed to light. For prints such as RLCR 1640, Cathedral #2, separate plates were made using a positive and a negative of the drawing so that a second dot pattern—and another color—could be introduced. (Process information is derived from the April 4, 1983 conversation between Fine and Gemini G.E.L. printers Charles Ritt and Stuart Henderson, in preparation for Fine 1984. According to J. Young 1971, p. 73, Lichtenstein’s actual painting stencils (dots) were used photographically to make the plates for the prints.)

Asked by Frederic Tuten if he viewed the Cathedral prints differently from the paintings, Lichtenstein responded: “Yes, I do see them differently; I don’t quite know how. Maybe it’s because here they are cathedrals in the style of cheap printings brought back again to printings—elegant printings. Also there is the relating of Monet’s different daylight effects to the expediency of printing the same image in different colors. My Cathedral paintings use different views of the cathedral as well as different colors; and they are paintings about printing, not printing about printing.” (Tuten 1969 reprinted in Coplans 1972a, p. 98–99.)

(Corlett 2002, p. 96)