Sometimes when an artist gains fame, or even simply becomes well known for a certain style or piece of artwork, it is easy to overlook a much more varied and layered body of work. The chances are high that beyond the fame of their signature there may exist a great deal of build up to that point— years of experimenting and a host of travelling through different media, styles, genres and perhaps even physical locations. The intriguing principle of such a dynamic and transitive odyssey is that the artist’s voice is nonetheless intrinsic, a common thread capable of tying together a potentially disparate collection of expressions.
Seeking out lesser-known pieces by a favorite artist can be an introduction to deeper and more colorful facets of their personalities— drawing new light into their inner workings and underscoring the through-line that ultimately led to their renown.
Henri Matisse – Charles Baudelaire, Mourlot stone lithograph 1954
Henri Matisse is so well known for his simplified shape and bright color style that it hides his finely sensitive and experienced draughtsmanship. The reason his seemingly spontaneous lines and forms are able to translate so effectively is that they draw from a staggering adeptness of skill and countless hours spent looking and recording. Looking at a piece like his portrait of Charles Baudelaire gives a sense of the wealth of mastery just under the surface.
Roy Lichtenstein – Brushstrokes at Pasadena Art Museum, silkscreen 1967 Roy Lichtenstein – Big Painting #6, silkscreen 2000
Roy Lichtenstein made low art into high art with his characteristic comic book imagery and the Ben-Day dots of its printing. What is not immediately apparent when looking at his primary colors, high-contrast, speech bubbles and melodrama is his effortless sense of compositional balance. His two dimensional designs are so lyrical, confident and strong that they seem almost more like they would be contemporaries to artists like Degas. This can be easier seen in abstract pieces like Brushstrokes at Pasadena Art Museum and Big Painting #6, where his true artistry shines through.
"...drawing new light into their inner workings and underscoring the through-line that ultimately led to their renown."
Keith Haring – Untitled (1984) and Untitled (1988), offset lithographs 1990 and 1993
Keith Haring is enjoying a renaissance in popularity right now, and with one of the most standout linework styles in contemporary art, it is hard to recall anything beyond those lovable running, dancing figures. That line quality, though, must certainly have found its origins in deep-rooted investigations through indigenous cultures and primitive letterforms mixed with a modern fiery street graffiti energy and inextinguishable spirit, all of which is visible in these two Untitled pieces.
Joan Miro – Derriere le Miroir, no. 151-152, pg 18,19, stone lithograph 1965
Joan Miro – Le Miroir de l'Homme par les Betes, foil print 1972 Joan Miro – Gravure sur Bois 2, woodblock 1958
Joan Miro – Sans Titre (Untitled), Mourlot stone lithograph
Miró has an incredible repertoire of stone lithograph prints that come from his years of work as a featured artist in the Derrière le Miroir publication at the Maeght Editeur studio in Paris. The pages of these DLM publications are a unique and unrestricted representation of Miró’s distinctive prowess, a simple framework where he was able to channel some truly enlightened visions.
Jeff Koons – Lips, limited edition plate 2012
And with Jeff Koons, though we may never escape the impact of his Red Balloon Dog, his other work is yet compelling, electric and formidable. This piece titled Lips is a limited edition screen-printed porcelain plate numbered out of 2500, published by Bernardaud in France, a renowned porcelain manufacturer since 1863. This art object made with an image detail from Koons’ painting reminds us of why pop art is so exciting.