DescriptionMel Ramos (b. 1935)
A Sinister Figure Lurks in the Shadows, 1962
Oil on canvas
18-3/8 x 13-1/4 inches (46.7 x 33.7 cm)
Signed, titled, and dated verso and on stretcher: 1962 "A Sinister Figure / Lurks in the Shadows" / By Mel Ramos
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1960s.
Since the early 60s California artist Mel Ramos has been fascinated with popular culture and mass media icons. Appropriating cartoons as the subject matter for his art, he quickly became the representative of all West Coast Pop. In his first mature body of work, Ramos painted a series of superheroes, including the most beloved and mysterious of all: Batman. Held in a private collection for many years, A Sinister Figure Lurks in the Shadows has been missing from public view until this time.
Ramos renders Batman with strong impasto and dramatic brushstrokes, indicating the impending action and sharp instincts of our hero. Immersing us into his fantastical world and placing our omnipotent hero against a fleshy, cream-colored background, Ramos brings Batman to life, ready for action.
Although he used images from popular culture, like other early Pop artists, Ramos also considered himself an Expressionist. He held a strong belief that the artist's hand must be present in the finished product. With this in mind, he skillfully rendered the comic superheroes by mastering hyper-expressive gestures. His paintings combine the styles of the artists he most admired: the Abstract Expressionist style of Willem de Kooning with the colorful, thick strokes of Wayne Thiebaud. Ramos continually explored how high and low art intersected. He transformed popular figures such as these superheroes into his own hand-made, unique objects.
A lover of comic books, Ramos decided early in his career that he would paint the subjects he grew up with. In fact, in the early 60s, Ramos loved superheroes so much that he traded A Sinister Figure Lurks in the Shadows for even more comic books. The current owner, Bill Steinfelt has held onto the painting ever since. Mr. Steinfelt wasn't aware of the tremendous value of his trade until earlier this year.
Heritage is pleased to offer this important piece of history at auction. This painting of Batman epitomizes the truly incredible talent of Mel Ramos and the invincibility of all the comic book heroes we love.
This work is in very good condition. Unlined original canvas; faint stretcher creases; a few areas with craquelure, most notably at figure's upper right shoulder; two original miniscule abrasions with associated flecks of paint loss below figure's right eye have been professionally inpainted; some very spots of minor surface dirt commensurate with age; under UV exam, there appears to be a dirty varnish layer within the figure's black cape, but no additional inpainting visible. Framed Dimensions 19.875 X 14.625 Inches
*Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.
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