Flowers 71 by Andy Warhol is a screen print included in his super famous Flowers series from 1970. Warhol originally painted the flowers in 1964, and published the portfolio six years later. Among the complete portfolio, Flowers 71 displays Andy Warhol’s appreciation for beauty, both natural, yet stylistically synthetic. The original source image for the hibiscus flowers was found in the June 1964 issue of Modern Photography. However, the use of the copyrighted photo resulted in legal trouble for Warhol. Photographer Patricia Caulfield sued him in 1966 for appropriating her photographs for the series. Using images from external sources was not new to Warhol, and had brought him great success. But, the threat of the lawsuit nudged Warhol to begin experimenting with his own photography as source material for his silkscreen prints, albeit out of necessity.
After suffering a gunshot wound from Valeria Solanas in 1968, Warhol acquired a new perspective toward his surroundings. The shock of his near-death experience had a dissociative effect on him. “Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there—I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life… Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television. The channels switch, but it’s all television.” The flower was a perfect subject to return to. It counteracted the violence he experienced, as well as the morbid imagery from his Death and Disaster works. The publication of the Flowers portfolio in 1971 would be the beginning of a shift toward less controversial prints in Warhol’s catalogue.
Portfolios such as Electric Chair and Skulls evoke death, and suggest Warhol’s ruminating on the human condition. At the same time, prints that depict lively themes began to proliferate through Warhol’s catalogue in the 70’s. Flowers seems to focus on a universal symbol of beauty, happiness, and peace. The essence of beauty derived from—and then altered from—nature is a common theme in Warhol’s works. Examples of these alluring alterations can be seen in portfolios such as Space Fruit, Sunset, and Grapes.
In Flowers 71, the juxtaposition of colors breaks the beautiful monotony of the hibiscus. Isolating different colors in this way allows for distinguished features to emerge. For example, the idea of the isolated beauty in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, goes as such: “Sometimes something can look beautiful just because it’s different in some way from the other things around it. One red petunia in a window box will look very beautiful if all the rest of them are white, and vice-versa.” In Flowers 71, the two top flowers oppose the yellow hibiscus duo, giving them prominence in the print.
Flowers 71 doesn’t seem to be liable to decay, yet attains a hauntingly fragile glow. The permanence of the print’s saturating hue remains imprinted in the eye of the viewer. The same can be said about the coloration of works such as Flowers 68, Liz Taylor, and Mao 98. The timeless beauty encapsulated in the Flowers portfolio is guaranteed to never lose its aura.