Shoes 255 by Andy Warhol is a screenprint from his 1980 Shoes portfolio. The portfolio recalls his early work as a commercial fashion illustrator for companies and publications like Glamour, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. Specifically, he created dozens of shoe illustrations for I. Miller & Sons between 1955 and 1957, when he worked as their only illustrator. One may consider Shoes to be a re-imagination of his early shoe designs that predate his stardom. In general, the portfolio is a continuation of his subtle fetish for women’s shoes and their delicacy.
In Warhol’s diary, we can read about the very day he set out to buy the shoes used in this series. “Went out and bought props for drawings (fruit $23.80). Got a load of 1950s used shoes down on Canal Street for $2 a pair. It’s just the shoes I used to draw, all the Herbert Levine shoes with the creative lasts. Shoes first got really pointy in ’54–55, and then they got round in ’57″ (Andy Warhol & Pat Hackett. The Andy Warhol Diaries). Warhol and his assistant, Ronnie Cutrone, photographed the shoes disarranged on the studio floor. Taken by the appearance of the dispersed shoes, Warhol decided to use the photos as the basis for the series.
In Shoes 255, Warhol depicts the heeled shoes in a monochromatic color pallet with shoes featured diagonally across the canvas. This work, in particular, differs from other screenprints within the Shoes portfolio, which feature shoes portrayed in vibrant colors. In Shoes 255, the shoes are depicted in white while the shadow and background are black, creating a stark contrast. Shoes 255 is among many works in the portfolio that feature a unique technique in which Warhol uses diamond dust to create a shimmer-like effect. Warhol incorporated the diamond dust technique into the portfolio after finding inspiration from Rupert Jansen Smith, who was also a major assistant of Warhol’s. Smith used industrial-grade ground-up stones to create the diamond dust effect in his screenprints. Unlike Smith, Warhol opted to use pulverized glass to create the diamond dust effect.
Another except in Andy’s diary reads: “[Rupert Smith] tried to be artistic and he sure was, he sure was. This is the Shoes with the diamond dust. He had them completely finished, with the diamond dust on and everything. I don’t know why he did that. I’m doing shoes because I’m going back to my roots. In fact, I think maybe I should do nothing but (laughs) shoes from now on.”
Shoes 255, along with the complete Shoes portfolio, merges Warhol’s interest in commercial commodities, excess, and opulence. The screenprints are symbolic of growing trends in fashion and pop culture, as well as Andy’s own fascination for shoes and feet. The Shoes portfolio contains FS II.253-257.