Roy Lichtenstein: Mirror Series (1972)

Mirrors were an important subject in Lichtenstein’s paintings and prints of the early 1970s. From late 1969 to 1972 he painted over forty canvases depicting this subject, and produced his first print in 1970 with Twin Mirrors  (Corlett 102) for the Guggenheim Museum. The Mirrors series, which consists of 9 prints, was created in 1972 in collaboration with Gemini G.E.L, in Los Angeles.

The Mirror series, which was started in 1969, is based on pictures of mirrors Lichtenstein found in sales brochures of glassware shops. He was primarily interested in the problem of how to represent intangible phenomena – such as surface reflections – using concrete pictorial devises such as his signature benday dots. As an object, a mirror recedes behind the changing images it reflects, itself remaining practically invisible. In Mirror, however, Lichtenstein manages the trick of not showing the reflected object, but the process of reflection. The two aspects of the series – the abstraction of reflection and the realism of the mirror – create a contrasting relationship, yet Lichtenstein successfully conveys these aspects through the use of the benday dots, lines, and colors. The enlargement of the dots, and their gradual diminution in size, produces a flickering effect, which optically transforms the flat surface into an evocation of an indeterminate, light-flooded space that appears reflected in the mirror. In an interview with Lawrence Alloway, Lichtenstein noted, “They really only look like mirrors if someone tells you they do. Only once you know that, they may be moved as far as possible from realism, but you want it to be taken for realism. It becomes as stylized as you can get away with, in an ordinary sense, not stylish” (Corlett 106-114).

The Mirror series utilizes lithography, screenprint, line-cut and embossing. Mirror #1 incorporates the reflective surface of silver-foil collage. Line-cut, a process of relief printing, and embossing are used in the first four prints of the series, sharpening the edges of the forms. All are printed on sheets of 28” x 28” Arjomari paper.


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