Skull 159 by Andy Warhol is one of four screenprints that the artist created by layering vivid colors over the sketch of a human skull. Based on a photograph taken by Warhol’s assistant, this print is an example of Warhol’s interest with light, using photography as a way to experiment its relationship to an object. The subject of this particular print is the skull facing the viewer, rather than to the side, as the other works of the series are shown. Skull 159 is also a unique piece in the collection because of the vivacity of its palette. The bright, blood red underneath the picture of the skull is both unnerving and thought-provoking, defining it as a piece that is impossible to look away from.
Skull 159 by Andy Warhol as Part of his Larger Body of Work
Andy Warhol’s Skulls series represents an important shift in Warhol’s work. This shift was possibly influenced by Warhol being critically shot in 1968, an event which profoundly affected his life and art. Historically in art, the human skull represents the theme “vanitas,“ known as mortality or the shortness of life. Thus, Warhol’s skulls may serve as a motif or a part of Warhol’s desire to evoke the ephemerality of the human condition. With the help of assistants, Warhol was able to create multiple prints of the subject, varying in color combinations and the level of individual vibrancy.