IN PRIVATE HANDS FOR 50 YEARS, SUPERHERO PAINTING AN IMPORTANT WORK FROM EARLY IN ARTIST’S CAREER
IN THE EARLY 1960s, California artist Mel Ramos was experimenting with pop-culture images, along with East Coast contemporaries Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
A fan of comic books, Ramos decided early that he would paint people he grew up admiring. “I was attracted to comics back then,” Ramos has told The Intelligent Collector.
In 1961, the Sacramento native produced what is considered his first true “mature” image. “That very well-known painting is Superman, and it displays a style and technique which Ramos has been identified with ever since,” art historian and gallery owner Louis K. Meisel has written.
Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern also got the Ramos treatment. In 1962, he painted his version of Batman. Shortly afterwards, the artist traded the painting for some comic books. “Our consignor acquired the painting directly from Ramos in the early 1960s,” says Leon Benrimon, director of modern and contemporary art at Heritage Auctions’ New York office. “He has held onto this painting ever since, not aware of its value until earlier this year.”
A Sinister Figure Lurks in the Shadows is being offered in Heritage’s modern and contemporary art auction scheduled for Nov. 14, 2015, in Dallas. It’s expected to realize at least $80,000.
Since those early days, Ramos has won international acclaim. His figurative painting has been lauded for its classical technique, vibrant energy and modern consumerist sensibilities, and his art hangs in the Guggenheim, Museum of Modern Art and Smithsonian American Art Museum. Ramos’ Superman is part of San Francisco’s De Young Museum collection.
Although he gained popularity as part of the Pop Art movement, Ramos believes an artist’s hand must be present in the finished product, Benrimon says. “Ramos transformed popular figures such as these comic superheroes into his own hand-made, unique images. This painting of Batman not only epitomizes the truly incredible talents of Mel Ramos, but also exudes the simplicity and invincibility of all comic-book heroes with whom we have grown to love.”