Campbell’s Soup II: Old Fashioned Vegetable 54 by Andy Warhol is one of ten prints included in his Campbell’s Soup II portfolio from 1969. This series was a continuation of his first Campbell’s Soup Can portfolio from 1968, with ten additional prints featuring more uncommon flavors. Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup II portfolio came seven years after his original Campbell’s Soup Cans paintings from 1962. The original series, sometimes called 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans, received criticism from artists and critics. Some thought the series was blatantly commercial. Others felt it was nothing more than a simple appropriation of a consumer product. Regardless, the portfolio garnered praise that would launch his career. Andy returned to the concept twice, creating some of the most important images in modern art history. Notably, the Campbell’s Soup II portfolio ranks amongst Warhol’s top 10 most valuable portfolios of all time.
In addition to serving as a symbol of consumerism and advertising, the soup cans are a bold commentary on the status quo of art. While most artists at the time focused on tradition sources of artist beauty–like nature and emotion–Warhol took a different approach. To create his famous designs, Warhol appropriated well known objects and images of consumer culture, elevating them to fine art. Warhol took the simple design and blew it up to a 35×32 inch print, with a flat and bold composition. As some of the most groundbreaking artifacts of Pop-art, the Campbell’s Soup Cans challenged what could be deemed socially and artistically acceptable, forever changing the trajectory of modern art.
The Campbell’s Soup Can is one of the most iconic modern art images, which Warhol used to convey his thoughts on advertisement style art, and ubiquitous consumer products. Warhol would create these works by appropriating images of household products such as Coca-Cola or a festival ticket. Warhol’s use of repetition adds to the advertisement style, resembling the look of a billboards and comic book pages. Further, the repetitive nature of his work embodies the mass-production of consumer goods, which he sought to replicate with art. He even dubbed his art studio “The Factory,” which became a fantastic place to create art, and for the so-called Warhol superstars to party and collaborate.
Although Warhol’s 1969 portfolio still contains the same familiar red and white design, Campbell’s Soup II showcases ten additional Campbell’s Soup cans, each different flavors. The series uses the same trademark design Americans know and love, but with the addition of new graphics. In place of the traditional Campbell’s golden seal, designs unique to each flavor are shown on the front of the can. On this particular print, the label’s design reads, “Old Fashioned Vegetable Made with Beef Stock”. This new design fit well into Warhol’s already existing portfolios, with his traditional design style and repetitive appearance.
Other works from this series include Hot Dog Bean 59, Golden Mushroom 62, and Scotch-Broth 55. The unusual soups from Campbell’s Soup II are all real flavors of Campbell’s Soup, each of which has their own unique illustration.
Andy Warhol originally hand painted the cans for his 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans portfolio from 1962. However, his introduction to the silkscreen technique changed his method forever. Warhol began to utilize screen print technology in order to achieve precise and reliable results. This development allowed Warhol to create multiple copies of his works in an accessible way. He would soon begin mass producing detailed images with a factory-style approach, forming the heartbeat of his oeuvre. By using this new technique, Warhol was able to achieve a nearly identical and accurate outcome. Ultimately, this new technique became Warhol’s signature method of artistic expression, and allowed him to access his true power.
Warhol’s love for mass-production, advertisement, and Campbell’s soup all morphed together to create these portfolios. Although the Campbell’s soup cans are arguably some of his most notable works, the artist received some backlash after showcasing his original 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans series. Due to the unfamiliar subject matter of Warhol’s Soup Cans, some people questioned the significance of his work. Fifty-nine years after their original debut, people may still debate the artistic value of Warhol’s soup cans. Nonetheless, the soups became some of the most beloved Pop-art images.
Despite some of the initial criticism Warhol received after showing his original Campbell’s Soup cans, the design launched his career. Campbell’s Soup Cans II: Old Fashioned Vegetable 54 soon became a quintessential item of pop-art culture. Warhol created these soup cans at the dawn of the new art movement, helping to ignite the new genre. Still to this day, Warhol’s soup cans rule the pop-art world. Ultimately, they represent Warhol tapping into his true potential, and the beginning of his rise to Pop-art stardom.