The inspiration for Warhol’s Cow 12 and the rest of the Cow portfolio stems from Ivan Karp, an instrumental art dealer in the 1960s. Karp once told Warhol “Why don’t you paint some cows? They’re so wonderfully pastoral and such a durable image in the history of the arts.” (POPism: “The Warhol Sixties,” 22). Gerard Malanga, one of Warhol’s printers and collaborators, was the one who chose the photograph of the cow. But ultimately, it was what Warhol did with this image that made the final product so interesting. He uses bold high contrast colors, which make the bovine animal a humorous and strangely exciting subject matter. Warhol printed the image on wallpaper. This screenprint, Cow 12, is detailed with a yellow foreground against an electric blue background.
Cow 12 by Andy Warhol as Part of his Larger Body of Work
The Cow series consists of four screenprints of a realistic photographic image of a large cow head printed on wallpaper produced from 1966 to 1976. Warhol’s Cow series was his formal effort to introduce the production of wallpaper into his creative repertoire. The wallpaper was first printed to paper the gallery walls for Warhol’s exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1966. The wallpaper was used twice more to line the walls of Warhol’s show.