Hear a mini play inspired by this painting
SFX: Game show music
Hey, all you listeners out there! Do you know what time it is!? It’s time to play —
SFX: Chorus of contestants and audience shouting in unison.
ALL: MODERN… ART… MASHUP!!
MARTY: (chuckles) T
he rules are simple, contestants! As I point out details in the painting, panel, it’s your job to tell us what we’re seeing!
SFX: Wind-up and ticking sound.
Okay, the timer’s running! Let’s start with the wooden plank rising vertically on the left side of the canvas—can anyone tell me what that is?
Yes, Marty. It’s an obvious nod to German Dadaist Max Ernst!
SFX: Buzzer. Crowd reacts.
I’m sorry, Ynez– the answer we were looking for was “a face!” “A face.” Over to you, Margo. At the bottom right side of the canvas—that squiggly melting torso, draped with cream-colored fabric… what is it?
I see lips where the head might be, reminiscent of Picasso, and the melting is a loving homage to master surrealist Salvador Dali?
SFX: Buzzer. Crowd reacts.
Sorry, Margo, the answer is “a reclining lady.” We’re looking at “a reclining lady.” I would have taken “a reclining lady holding a mirror” too. No one’s giving out MFA’s today, don’t overthink it.
OK panel, next up is that red sun radiating out of an inverted triangle. Now look just above it in the sky, that big black-and-white smear — what is it?
That’s a stylized brushstroke, often seen in the pop art works of this artist, Roy Lichtenstein.
SFX: Correct answer chime
The hand-painted Ben-day dots and diagonal shading also common motifs in Lichtenstein’s paintings! Score one for the self-referentialists.
SFX: Gameshow music stinger.
You know what that sound means! It’s time for–
ALL: LAST DETAIL!
That’s right, contestants…scan this painting for a figure in a hat and red tie.
SFX: YNEZ and MARGO make vague searching noises… “Um..?”
…Standing just left of a yellow wall?
Mexican muralist Diego Rivera?
French painter Fernand Leger?
MARTY: Sorry, ladies, the judges don’t know either! But isn’t that ambiguity part of what makes this painting
so much fun! You don’t have to know every reference, you just have to know it’s a…
SFX: Music, as if the game show is ending and Margo yells over the top
…the sunset is also recurring motif throughout Lichtenstein’s works!
Game over, Margo. That’s… that’s enough.
Figures with Sunset is a very large horizontal painting that looks like a playful comic strip. It was made by Roy Lichtenstein in 1978. The canvas is a nine-foot-tall and fourteen-foot-wide rectangle. It’s painted in oil and magna, which is an acrylic resin paint. The scene is cluttered with figures and abstract shapes, strongly outlined in black. The other colors are primary: white, red, yellow, and blue. Keep listening to hear a more detailed description, or skip ahead to hear a scene from an imaginary game show, inspired by this artwork.
In the vertical center of the canvas, a large oval outlined in blue and black faces us. Its interior is shaded with small dots to make it look like newsprint. The shaded areas look like a reflection, so this probably represents a mirror. It is held up on its right side by a squiggling, reclining figure, also shaded, this time with nickel-sized red dots. The reclining figure has holes in it, like swiss cheese. The figure is topped by a pair of voluptuous red lips. A sideways eye with long eyelashes perches on top of the lips. The eye is surrounded by a curvy outline that resembles a bright yellow bouffant hairstyle.
Just to the left of the bouffant hair, a man in a red tie steps out from behind a yellow wall. The light skinned, dark haired figure resembles photographs of the artist Pablo Picasso as a young man.
Moving over to the opposite side of the painting, about half-way up, a red sun rises out of an inverted triangle. The triangle is divided into two smaller triangular planes, black on the right, yellow on the left. Above the sun, at the top of the canvas, a stylized black-and-white brushstroke moves across the sky horizontally, a signature image of Lichtenstein’s. The brushstroke intersects a vertical black and white plank, on the far left of the canvas. The plank is painted like woodgrain, and its shape resembles a face in profile.
Keep listening to tune into the imaginary game show “Modern Art Mashup,” which explores details of this painting.
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