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The Morgan Library & Museum receives highly important gift from the Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
Roy Lichtenstein, Mickey Mouse I, 1958. Pastel, brush and india ink on paper, 19 1/8 x 25 in. (48.6 x 63.5 cm) © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Morgan Library & Museum announced today that it has received a major gift from the Estate of Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997), including twenty-one sketchbooks by the renowned artist, two of his early drawings, and several original drawings by artists who were part of his circle. The works were given to the Morgan by Lichtenstein’s wife, Dorothy, in memory of her husband.

The Morgan held a critically acclaimed exhibition of Lichtenstein’s drawings in 2010, and this gift positions the institution to become a significant center for the study of the artist’s work. The sketchbooks include numerous studies and are important source material on Lichtenstein’s working method and the subject matter that attracted him during the various phases of his career. The drawings, which include sheets by Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Brice Marden, and Robert Rauschenberg, add significantly to the Morgan’s growing collection of modern works on paper, while highlighting Lichtenstein’s close involvement with some of the great practitioners of his day. In addition to the gift of the twenty-one sketchbooks, the Morgan will also receive on long-term loan eleven of the artist’s remaining sketchbooks, which are now held by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

“The significance of this gift to the Morgan cannot be overstated,” said William M. Griswold, Director of the museum. “Roy Lichtenstein is one of the true masters of twentieth-century art. Our recent exhibition of his drawings shed new light on his extraordinary career, and the sketchbooks that we are receiving provide rare and valuable insight into his ideas, practices, subjects, and interests. They also continue a notable collecting tradition at the Morgan, which holds numerous artists’ sketchbooks dating back to the early Renaissance.

“The individual drawings by Lichtenstein and some of his most illustrious contemporaries substantially enrich our collection of modern works on paper and constitute a transformational addition to the Morgan’s holdings. We are deeply grateful to Dorothy Lichtenstein for this singular gift.”

The thirty-two sketchbooks that will come to the Morgan cover the period from the mid-1960s to the artist’s death in 1997, and include drawings related to most of his familiar themes. They reveal a working method whereby Lichtenstein made groups of sketches of a particular subject, and then selected one to be cut out and projected onto the canvas to be painted. The studies that have remained in the sketchbooks present alternate versions and details that further illuminate the artist's intentions.

The two drawings by Lichtenstein, large in scale, belong to the early years of his career, dating to 1958, and explore his fascination with popular American culture. Titled Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse I, they show Lichtenstein experimenting in an Abstract Expressionist style—influenced by Willem de Kooning’s paintings of women—but with subject matter that prefigures his Pop Art phase.

The drawings by other artists from Lichtenstein’s personal collection include an extremely important 1962 Andy Warhol work titled Campbell’s Soup Can and Dollar Bills. Combining two of the artist’s most iconic images, the work dates to a period when Warhol was using a loose style of drawing before initiating his famous serialized silk-screening process of the mid-1960s.

An untitled drawing by Cy Twombly dating to 1964 was made at Val Gardena in the Italian Alps. It shows the artist’s trademark richness of style, combining graffiti and symbols with scribbles and scratches expressive of his gestural approach.

A 1966 drawing by Brice Marden was purchased by Lichtenstein at Marden’s first solo gallery show the same year. Untitled and executed on the back of a cancelled print proof by Ellsworth Kelly, the drawing is a major work rendered in the textured, monochromatic palette that characterizes his work from the period.

“I had the privilege of getting to know the Morgan’s director, Bill Griswold, the curator, Isabelle Dervaux, and conservator, Peggy Holben Ellis when the Morgan mounted the exhibition of Roy’s early black and white drawings,” Dorothy Lichtenstein said, in making the gift. “They were such an impressive team that I made the decision to donate our collection of drawings to what I believe will be the best home for them.”

“Roy and I have always loved the Morgan,” she added. “It is a unique institution, which, whenever we visited, felt like a total respite from the hectic pace of the city. When the Morgan started showing modern and contemporary art I thought it would be the best place to share some of the drawings we had collected over the years.”

In February 2015, the drawings and a selection of sketchbooks from the gift will be included in an exhibition that will celebrate ten years of acquisitions of stellar modern and contemporary drawings at the Morgan. The show will highlight both the continuity and radical shifts in twentieth- and twenty-first-century artistic practice in the medium of drawing.

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