Flowers 67 by Andy Warhol is one of ten screen prints from Warhol’s 1970 Flowers portfolio. The prints remain among the Pop artist’s most recognizable and desired works. The collection itself represents a return to an image Warhol first explored in 1964, when he debuted Flowers at the Leo Castelli Gallery. Here, Warhol ruminates on the relationship between the natural world and commercialized society. The high contrast between the textured grass and the flattened, color-blocked flowers displays the spirited way Warhol played with this connection. Several publications debated over what kind of flowers the artist used, adding further intrigue to the artworks.
Flowers 67 exhibits bright orange, yellow, and lavender hibiscus flowers against a backdrop of neon green grass swathed in dark shadow. The flowers appear commodified, like many of Warhol’s more commercial works (such as the Ads series, and Dollar Sign). He amplifies the subject through loud, alluring colors, capturing the viewer’s immediate attention as he did in his years as a commercial artist. From Hollywood icons, to stamps and soup cans, Warhol crafted repetitive, eye-catching prints for mass appeal.
Nevertheless, there is still a classic sense of beauty in these images. Flowers represent a timeless, oft-visited subject in art, and Warhol loved them dearly. Although Warhol garnered much of his fame from producing screen prints of stars like Elvis Presley, Jane Fonda and Ingrid Bergman, he adored classic subjects in equal measure. Other portfolios including Gems, Grapes, Sunset and Space Fruit exemplify Warhol’s broad range of interests. In this series, he maintains the delicacy of the flowers as entities of the natural world while intensifying their effect. This is why Flowers 67 and the other prints in this collection are such iconoclastic Pop images. “Playing up what things really were was very Pop,” Warhol commented in his 1980 book Popism.
Warhol discovered Patricia Caulfield’s original image in a 1964 issue of Modern Photography. After she became aware of the unapproved use of her photograph, she sued Warhol in 1966. Caulfield won her case. In addition, the court granted her future royalties, $6,000 and two prints of her own. The trial had a lasting impact on Warhol. “Andy realized that he had to be very careful about appropriating for the fear of being sued again,” Gerard Malanga explained. “He opted to start taking his own photographs. His entry into photography vis à vis his creation of silkscreen paintings was done out of necessity.”
Prior to Flowers, Warhol spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on concepts like death and crime in his art. In 1962, his Thirteen Most Wanted Men series showcased NYPD mug shots while the Death and Disaster series portrayed photographs of disastrous car wrecks and electric chairs repeated over and over. Curator Henry Geldzahler encouraged Warhol to veer in a different direction, and Warhol took his advice. However, if one looks close enough, Warhol’s previous state of mind can be seen in the Flowers series. The artist leaves the interplay between light and shadow undisguised, highlighting the juxtaposition between splendorous beauty and chaotic darkness.