At the very end of his career, Lichtenstein combined his interests in art history and landscapes and created a final series inspired by paintings from the Song Dynasty (960–1279). Lichtenstein was quite familiar with Chinese painting—he was first exposed to Chinese art during his time at Ohio State and would have seen it regularly at museums and in private collections throughout his career.
Southern Song Dynasty painting is known for its sparseness—an economy of means is used to articulate complex atmospheric conditions and the overall grandeur of nature. They are generally quite complicated and ambiguous spatially, but still maintain balance and harmony.
Lichtenstein’s paintings epitomize these ideas while still utilizing his signature style. In Landscape in Fog, he uses graduated black and blue dots to outline mountains, land, and sky. But perhaps most noticeably in this painting is the swath of brushstrokes across the middle, harkening back to his early work. These gestural marks indicate the eponymous fog, but also relate to the importance of the brushstroke and the artist’s hand in Chinese landscapes. And after an entire exhibition almost entirely composed of work that’s seemingly machine-made, these brushstrokes feel incredibly lush.