John Wayne 377 (Unique) by Andy Warhol represents the macho leading man in Hollywood’s prime. He was a fixture in westerns and war movies alike and was considered an all-American hero. The source image is a publicity photo from the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). In this image, the celebrity status of John Wayne completely overshadows the actor’s real identity. In the movie, a reporter takes the story of John Wayne’s character back to his editor and is told, “This is the West, sir; when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” That’s what Warhol did in this series.
John Wayne (Unique) 377 by Andy Warhol as Part of his Larger Body of Work
In Cowboys and Indians, Warhol interspersed recognizable portraits of well-known American heroes with less familiar Native American images and motifs. It demonstrates his ironic commentary on America’s collective mythologizing of the historic West. Rather than portraying Native Americans within their historical landscape, Warhol chose to portray a romanticized version of the American West. The West that he chose to represent is familiar to everyone and can be seen in novels, films, and television series. Warhol’s Cowboys and Indians suite is an ahistorical representation that mirrors a popular interpretation of the American West.
Photo credit: John Wayne in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” poster by Silver Screen, 1962.