Roy Lichtenstein: Cleaning Early Works


Roy Lichtenstein is best known for his work as a leading figure in the American Pop movement.  In the early 1950s, even before developing his signature style, Lichtenstein looked to images that were considered commonplace or trivial, and reinterpreted them.  Throughout his career, Lichtenstein called attention to the artifice of conventions and taste that pervaded art and society.  In the 1960s, Lichtenstein cemented the style synonymous with his name, which featured cartoonlike images, bold primary colors, and thick outlines.  His mature work commonly channeled advertising and commercial printing using Benday dots and stencils.

Three of Lichtenstein's early works were recently brought to The Center by a private collector to address age-related condition issues. Birds and Flowers, a work completed by Lichtenstein in 1950, was shown half cleaned in our booth at EXPO. With this piece, our conservators began by tending to structural issues with the stretcher supporting the painting.  To ensure adequate tension for the canvas, keys missing from the painting’s stretcher were replaced. 

Currently, the painting is still undergoing surface cleaning to remove grime and accretions that have built up on the piece over time, with the right half having been cleaned, and the left half still awaiting treatment. The reverse of the painting will also be cleaned, using a soft brush and vacuum.  To complete treatment, conservators will continue to locally consolidate areas of flaking paint, and to fill and texture losses in the painted surface.  Inpainting will also be carried out in areas of loss and abrasion, using reversible conservation paints.