Visual Descriptions

Roy Lichtenstein. Drowning Girl. 1963 84

Oil and acrylic on canvas, 67 5/8 x 66 3/4" (171.6 x 169.5 cm). Philip Johnson Fund (by exchange) and gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bagley Wright

Narrator 1: 8–4 Drowning Girl. Painted in 1963 by the American artist Roy Lichtenstein, 1923 – 1997. Oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 5 feet 8 inches high by 5 feet 7 inches wide. 172 x 170 cm.

Narrator 2: This work depicts the face and hand of a woman drowning in a swirl of water. It’s painted in the style of comic strips popular in the late 1940s and 50s, with a simplified and flat graphic style created by black outlines filled with color. Above the woman’s head and to your left is a thought bubble about two feet wide that exclaims, “I don’t care! I’d rather sink than call Brad for help!”

In the center of the canvas the woman’s head emerges from the water, taking up more than half the canvas. Her expression is one of distress; her eyes are closed, her brow is furrowed and tears cling to her eyelashes. Her lips are parted, revealing a top row of flat white teeth. Her left hand reaches gracefully out of the swirling water and we can see the top of her right bare shoulder peeking above the water. The rest of her body is submerged.

Though her skin appears to be light pink; closer inspection reveals it is actually comprised of a series of small red dots on a white background mimicking the commercial printing technique once used to produce images in comic books. Lichtenstein painted his dots by hand with a brush or stencil.

The various patterns and densities of dots on the woman’s lips are particularly intricate, creating tonal variation. From afar her lips look light red, with an even lighter area highlighting the left side of her bottom lip like a touch of gloss. While in the darker areas, the red dots are tightly clustered together to create a darker hue, in the lighter area the dots are farther apart.

Water fills the rest of the canvas. It swirls vigorously around the woman’s head on all sides, in stylized waves. The waves are outlined in black while the water is comprised of tiny evenly spaced dark blue dots against a white background, an effect that makes the water appear light blue. The waves are streaked with swirls of solid black that convey the movement and depth of the water. The tips of the waves are painted in with matte white paint to suggest foamy white caps. The woman’s hair is styled in a chin–length bob that curves toward her mouth. It is painted matte electric blue with sweeping black streaks running through it.

Narrator: To hear the Collection Tour audio on this work, press 4–4–6.

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