Mural with Blue Brushstroke

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Mural with Blue Brushstroke
Mural with Blue Brushstroke.jpg
ArtistRoy Lichtenstein
MovementPop art
Dimensions2070 cm × 990 cm (810 in × 390 in)
LocationAXA Center,
787 Seventh Avenue,
New York City

Mural with Blue Brushstroke is a 1986 mural painting by Roy Lichtenstein that is located in the atrium of the Equitable Tower (now known as the AXA Center) in New York City. The mural was the subject of the book Roy Lichtenstein: Mural With Blue Brushstroke. The mural includes highlights of Lichtenstein's earlier works.


Lichtenstein was commissioned to create a large public work in the Equitable Tower.[1] He was offered the commission in 1984 and began design work that fall, but strategizing took some time after that.[2]

Like his 1973–1974 Artist's Studio series works, such as Artist's Studio—Look Mickey, Mural with Blue Brushstroke copies or reworks many of his own work as well as a few works of other artists.[3] Several objects in the mirror had previously been incorporated in Artist's Studio—Look Mickey: The door, part of a mirror and an entablature.[3] The beach ball from Girl with Ball is held by Léger-like forms rather than the previous young woman, and the top part of the ball is now a sunrise for a landscape with randomly placed dots.[3] A light blue "brushstroke" represents a waterfall.[3] The combination of images result in a pastiche.[4]

Lichtenstein used his standard large canvas easel approach to this mural. He "...selected the motifs, he made a series of drawings and then collaged them together to make a maquette, measuring 34.25 by 17.5 inches, which became the working plan for the actual mural."[5] Images were selected, and slides of the collage were projected onto the building wall. From these slides, the outline of the mural was drawn by Lichtenstein and his assistants. The outlines were filled in with color on the plaster wall.[4][5] His assistants were David Lichtenstein, Robert McKeever, Arch O'Learhy, Brian O'Leary, James di Pasquale, and Fernando Pomalaza; the mural took six weeks to complete.[5] Rather than the five colors he generally uses (the primary colors plus black and white), he used eighteen colors.[4]

Lichtenstein had a strong preference for rectangular canvases. Analysis of his work refers to non-rectangular canvases as imperfect paintings and are described as being characteristic of Frank Stella. Mural with Blue Brushstroke is regarded as Lichtenstein's first 'imperfect' painting due to the depiction of a carpenter's triangle and French curve. It is an extreme sort of imperfection because the painting extends beyond the frame.[6]

Critical review[edit]

The Mural offers "...a hedonistic view of earthly insignificance."[3] When the mural opened Michael Brenson of The New York Times described the event as " event of major artistic importance. It marks a commitment to art on the part of a prominent American corporation that is as generous and innovative as any before."[7]

This is an example of a brushstroke that serves to "...structurally anchor a whole complex composition..."[8] The work is composed of "a cacophony of images" that serve as a "montage of his earlier subjects."[9] The work is the embodiment of commercialism shrouded in the "aura of artistic fame".[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chilvers, Ian (1998). Oxford Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-211645-2.
  2. ^ Waldman. "Murals, 1964–93". pp. 351–53. In 1984, Lichtenstein was offered the commission to design a mural for the lobby of the Equitable Tower in midtown Manhattan (fig. 278)...Lichtenstein began to work on the maquette for his mural in autumn 1984, and after the design was approved there were numerous meetings with engineers and conservators to determine how best to prepare the surface. The Mural was painted in Magna on canvas mounted on a plaster wall, which was then attached to the limestone wall of the building's atrium. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ a b c d e Hendrickson, Janis (1993). "Compilations, Syncopations, Discombobulations". Roy Lichtenstein. Benedikt Taschen. pp. 90–93. ISBN 3-8228-9633-0. As in the Studios, the gigantic Mural With Blue Brushstroke (Ill. p. 91) that Lichtenstein executed in 1986 for the Equitable Tower in New York quotes or re-phrases many of his own works, as well as those of other artists. The door part of a mirror and an entablature had already been used in Artist's Studio, Look Mickey...The beach ball from 1961 is no longer in the hands of a beautiful young woman; instead a Léger figure tosses it up into the air. The ball's upper crescent has become the rising sun of a landscape, whose rolling hills are scarred by random Benday dots...A streaming blue waterfall in the guise of Lichtenstein's brushstroke – minus its texture – pours down from one corner...
  4. ^ a b c Hendrickson, Janis (1993). "Compilations, Syncopations, Discombobulations". Roy Lichtenstein. Benedikt Taschen. p. 93. ISBN 3-8228-9633-0. Although all of these images are bound together formally, they make up a pastiche. It is not surprising that Lichtenstein arrived at the final composition by susing a collage model. After the final arrangement of images was decided, slides of the collage were made and projected onto the wall of the building. Lichtenstein, together with assistants, drew the outlines of the mural after these slides. Later the outlines were filled in with the artist's choice of colors, which had been extended over the past few years to include solid intermediary shades like orange and grey. As the artist explained to Calvin Tomkins in a book about the mural, 'I like the concept of using five colors, like in cartoons. I'm going to use eighteen or so in the mural...
  5. ^ a b c Waldman. "Murals, 1964–93". p. 353. Although the scale of the five-story-high mural was huge, he approached it much as he did his easel work. Once he had selected the motifs, he made a series of drawings and then collaged them together to make a maquette, measuring 34.25 by 17.5 inches, which became the working plan for the actual mural. The maquette was projected onto the surface of the plaster wall and its outlines were filled in with black tape. The mural took six weeks to execute. Under Lichtenstein's supervision, his assistants David Lichtenstein, [Robert] McKeever, Arch O'Learhy, [Brian] O'Leary, [James] di Pasquale, and Fernando Pomalaza completed the work in January 1986. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Bois, Yve-Alain (2009). "Slide Lecture". In Bader, Graham. Roy Lichtenstein: October Files. The MIT Press. pp. 137–138. ISBN 978-0-262-01258-4. The key concept is 'shaped canvas.' The Protractor paintings were irregularly shaped, as had been Stella's canvases for several years before that; the Modern ones were not...The very first 'imperfect' painting was the gigantic Mural with Blue Brushstroke (1986) in the lobby of the Equitable building in Manhattan. The composition is replete with art historical allusions; some are obscure, but all are perfectly documented in the small monograph published on this work; there are the Leger, Matisse, Braque, and Arp areas—that’s for the old modernists masters—and then, closer to home, the de Kooning, Johns, and Kelly quarters. But the Stella portions is the most conspicuous. Not so much for what it depicts (a carpenter's triangle and French curve, whose shapes evoke, respectively, the Polish Village and Brazilian Painting series of the early to mid-1970s, and the Exotic Birds and Indian Birds that follow), but because it comes out of the frame.
  7. ^ Brenson, Michael (February 23, 1986). "Art View; Museum and Corporation - A Delicate Balance". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
  8. ^ Hatch, Kevin (2007). "Roy Lichtenstein: Wit, Invention, and the Afterlife of Pop". Pop Art: Contemporary Perspectives. Yale University Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-300-12212-1.
  9. ^ Waldman. "Murals, 1964–93". p. 353. ...Lichtenstein presents a cacophony of images. Entitled Mural with Blue Brushstroke, it is another enormous montage of his earlier subjects, including a sunburst, a figure inspired by Leger (a master of the mural genre) holding a beachball, a hand holding a sponge, a classical column and an entablature, as well as motifs from almost every other series, including the Art Deco, office interior, and Mirror paintings, along with references to other twentieth-century artists including Frank Stella. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ Hughes, Robert (1997). "The Empire of Signs". American Visions: The Epic History Of Art In America. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 528. ISBN 0-679-42627-2. Witty and skillful, his pastiches represent the triumph of industry over inspiration. Thus his pseudo-Deco mural (Figure 211) in the Equitable Building in New York gives an insurance company the glamorous aura of artistic fame. It advertises patronage, and has no point beyond that.


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