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Andy Warhol - Bald Eagle F.S. II 296 jpg
Andy Warhol Bald Eagle 296 screenprint in frame.
Andy Warhol Bald Eagle 296

Bald Eagle 296

Catalogue Title: Bald Eagle (FS II.296)

Year: 1983

Size: 38″ x 38″

Medium: Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board

Edition: Edition of 150, 30 AP, 5 PP, 5 EP, 3HC, 10 numbered in Roman numerals, 1 BAT, 30 TP, signed and numbered in pencil. Portfolio of 10.

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Bald Eagle 296 by Andy Warhol is a work from the artist’s iconic 1983 Endangered Species complete portfolio. Like other pieces in the series, it features an animal then considered to be endangered or under imminent threat of extinction by habitat destruction, overuse of commercial or sporting purposes, or other manmade or natural causes. What sets this piece apart, however, is Warhol’s selection and portraiture of the bald eagle, America’s national bird. Through the depiction of U. S. mass goods and celebrities, Warhol established himself as a quintessentially American artist. Bald Eagle 296 represents some kind of apotheosis, then, of Warhol’s grand American ethos. The bald eagle is perhaps already a celebrity in the collective consciousness of United States denizens, featured heavily on governmental iconography and patriotic garb or imagery. Here, the eagle presents a fierce magnanimity, standing in (or perhaps flying in) as the avatar of a whole nation, something the piece shares with its sister piece, Giant Panda 295.

Andy Warhol’s Bald Eagle 296 and the rest of the Endangered Species series is the product of conversations with, and an eventual commission by gallerist Ronald Feldman and wife Frayda Feldman in 1983. The Feldman’s are widely known for their environmental activism. Commissions by Ronald Feldman also include some of Warhol’s masterful works from the 1980s like his Ads and Myths series.

In Bald Eagle 296, rather than showing its whole form, Warhol crops the bald eagle very closely, focusing on its head with some slight chest. Behind the head is a plausibly colored sky. Its gradient of dark blue transitioning to a lighter tint suggests a time approaching sunset. The eagle itself faces the viewer’s left, similar to how it looks on the official Great Seal of the United States; on the seal, this is the side in which the eagle clutches an olive branch. The original colors of the bird’s head are left intact, albeit highly contrasted, and an outline of hand-drawn red lines delineate an eye, majestic plumage, and a prominent and proud beak. These features vividly stand out, the viewer’s eye being drawn to them by Warhol’s ingenious framing. He essentially splits the piece into thirds, letting the black of the chest and blue of the sky act as simple but effective stages for the centerpiece of the Eagle’s head.

The bald eagle is no longer considered endangered, having been removed from the list in 1995. Giant Panda and Pine Barrens Tree Frog are two other prints from the series that depict animals who are no longer considered in danger of extinction. It is now considered being of “least concern”, indicating successful recovery and stable populations.

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