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Pop Art Myths

10 June to 14 Septembre 2014


Roy Lichtenstein
Look Mickey (detail)
Oil on canvas
121.9 x 175.3 cm

National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Roy and Dorothy Lichtenstein gift.

Alma-Tadema and Victorian Painting
in the Pérez-Simón Collection

From 25 June to 12 October 2014 (extended closing date)

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
The Roses of Heliogabalus (detail)
Oil on canvas
132.7 x 214.4 cm

Pérez-Simón Collection, Mexico

Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

Stuart Davis
Sweet Caporal
Oil and watercolour on lined cardboard
51 x 47 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Numero de inventario
INV. Nr. 513 (1973.55)

More information about this work

Stuart Davis confessed that “The two dominant forces in my early art education were the teachings of Robert Henri and the Armory Show of modern European art.” Davis’s painting is a constant attempt at reconciliation between realism and abstraction, between his commitment to the American themes taught by his master Robert Henri and the abstract art from abroad, and between the need to capture surrounding reality and the belief that a painting was an object independent from that reality. In his so-called Tobacco still-lifes executed at the beginning of the 1920s, which, like the present Sweet Caporal belonging to the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection, were inspired by cigarette packs, he not only exploits the formal potential of such packages but is interested in them as cultural products. Perhaps, as Bonnie L. Grad suggests, this appropriation of different quotidian objects is inspired by the Dadaist works of Marcel Duchamp. However, as Barbara Zabel points out, it also anticipates by several decades Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans.

Employing a language inherited from synthetic Cubism, in Sweet Caporal Davis shows his fascination with reproducing the words printed on the packaging of modern consumer products or billboards, which he furthermore uses as a device for emphasising the flatness of the pictorial composition. Cubism provided him with the key to making the transition from perception to conceptualization and he embraced a new type of painting based on Cubist collages with a series of overlapping planes, in a continual interplay of perspective and two-dimensionality.

Sweet Caporal, “Sweet Caps” as it was commonly known, was a brand of cigarettes sold by the American Tobacco Company from the end of the nineteenth century. It became very popular during the First World War, owing perhaps to its military connotations, since as Barbara Zabel points out, the American Heritage Dictionary defines the word “caporal” as “a strong, dark cigarette and pipe tobacco derived from the French ‘tabac de caporal’.”

Paloma Alarcó

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