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This large Allen Jones lithograph is printed exuberantly in primary colors. A swath of bright red brushstrokes represents the side of a bus. In the upper left, small windows reveal the passengers: a woman’s face is cut off above her vampy red lips, and a blue-haired man’s face is hidden. Royal blue fills the upper right corner of the composition, giving the impression of looking up at a passing bus against the cloudless sky. One can imagine Jones was thinking of the iconic red double decker bus the AEC Routemaster, first introduced in London in 1954. In the 1960s buses were a living symbol of familiar and new technology coexisting: as David Bucken put it, “In and around London a midpoint change on a journey might involve alighting from an RT bus, of which production had started just prior to World War II, and getting on one of the sexy new Routemasters.”
In the artist’s words: “The whole problem as a figurative artist was that it was going against the main march of modernism, which was towards abstraction. But here was a way of making the subject you were painting the same as the object you were painting on. By making the canvas a rhomboid, and putting little wheels on it, you have a schematic version of a vehicle, in this case a
London bus.” Jones plays with the space between abstraction and figuration: windowed passengers, elaborated with just a few lines and placed adjacent to a weighty red ground of brushstrokes, easily convey the form of a bus, yet the print also conveys Jones’ visceral, painterly delight in color play.
Born in Southampton, England in 1937, Allen Jones counted amongst his classmates at the Royal College of Art artist like Hockney, Boshier and Phillips. Jones became known for his bus paintings on shaped canvases and then gained notoriety for his provocative images of stiletto-clad women.
Four color lithograph on wove paper
Paper 28.5 x 42.5 / 72.4 X 108 cm
Wood frame 31 x 46 x 2 in. / 78.75 x 117 x 5 cm with 1 in. moulding
Signed by the artist lower right in pencil, labeled Trial Proof lower left in pencil. Edition 20. Printed at Tamarind Los Angeles with Clifford Smith. Published by the artist. This proof was a gift of the artist and is of the bus without the addition of the wheels as printed for the edition.