John Wayne 377 by Andy Warhol presents the macho leading man in Hollywood’s prime. He was fixture in western 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, Marion Robert Morrison. 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.” In this series, that’s what Warhol did.
John Wayne 377 by Andy Warhol as Part of His Larger Body of Work
Warhol interspersed recognizable portraits of well-known American heroes with less familiar Native American images and motifs in his ironic Cowboys and Indians series, holds commentary on Americans’ collective mythologizing of the historic West. Rather than portraying Native Americans within their historical landscape or cowboys in their veritable forms, Warhol chose to portray a popular, romanticized version of the American West. The West that he chose to represent is familiar to everyone and can be seen in novels, films, TV series. The series demonstrates an ahistorical representation that mirrors a popular interpretation of the American West.