September 2018 | Aurora Garrison
What is an “essential Warhol” work of art? Daily we at Revolver Gallery receive inquiries from Warhol enthusiasts and art collectors for Warhol original artwork from our collection, which is the largest privately-owned Warhol collection in the world.
What makes collecting Warhol such a joy and challenge is selecting a work from the sheer range of subject matter, media and periods from one of Warhol’s estimated 10,000 works of art. This article selects four seminal Warhol works and reviews them in both a historical and artistic context to explicate and understand the phenomena called Andy Warhol and his artistic legacy.
Warhol uniquely has works of art on multiple media: canvas, silkscreened, photography and sculpture. His concepts for art are as creative as his execution of the pieces, developed at his famous, cutting-cutting “The Factory” studios. Thematically, Warhol created several series from the Campbell’s soup cans, Disaster images, celebrity icons, and endangered species. Andy also commissioned portraits and, later in his three-decade career, experimented with religious works of art.
The depth of Warhol’s oeuvre is as exciting as the works of art themselves. With some art buyers, Revolver is filling a gap in their Warhol collection with a certain theme, subject matter or work from a period in his 30-year career.
But the recurring question to our curators is: “What is an essential Warhol?” From the Revolver Collection, we have pulled four works of art that create an “Essential Warhol collection” that show the artist’s range, depth and place in art history as a true innovator, provocateur, and trendsetter.
Revolver Gallery presents four such pieces, each uniquely speaking to Warhol’s status as the preeminent 20th-century artist:
(1) Self Portrait. Title: “Self-Portrait” (FS II.16)
(2) Marilyn. Title: “Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn)”, Full Suite (FS II.22-31)
(3) Soup Can. Title: “Campbell’s Soup I: Green Pea” (FS II.50)
(4) Flowers. Title: “Flowers” (FS II.67)
Background and Description
Here are a brief background and description of the four “Warhol Essentials” work of art.
(1) Self Portrait. Title: Self-Portrait (FS II.16)
“Self-Portrait” at Revolver Gallery is Andy Warhol’s 1966 portrait from a photograph by Rudolph Burkhardt to announce a Warhol exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery.
Medium: Offset lithograph on silver coated paper
Size: 23” x 23”
Edition: 300 signed and numbered in ball-point pen on verso; some signed on recto.
Details: Published to announce a Warhol exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, April 2 – April 27, 1966
Self-Portrait 16 is part of a series of self-portraits based on the same photograph done by Rudolph Burkhardt. In these self-portraits, Warhol tried to minimize his human qualities while maintaining strong likeness of himself in order to still be recognized as Warhol. This particular print is done with black ink printed on silver coated paper with half of Warhol’s face almost entirely in black. The pose he holds in which his hand rests on his chin gives a sense of contemplation—it is as if he is trying to figure out what his next work is going to be.
SELF-PORTRAIT 16 AS PART OF ANDY WARHOL’S LARGER BODY OF WORK
With Self-Portrait 16, Warhol established himself as an iconic subject. Throughout his career, Warhol’s image became more and more prolific and has become almost as famous as his work itself, which is uncommon for most artists. The images of Warhol were both of his own making as well as by other photographers or artists. In the late-1970s and into the 1980s, his self-portraits became more and more pervasive, largely due to his interest in different types of cameras and printing methods.
(2) Marilyn. Title: Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn), Full Suite (FS II.22-31)
“Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn)”, Full Suite (FS II.22-31) at Revolver Gallery is Andy Warhol’s 1967 repeating portrait from a photograph by Gene Korman based off of a publicity shot for her 1953 film Niagara.
Medium: Screenprint on Paper
Size: 36″ x 36″
Details: Edition of 250 signed in pencil and numbered with a rubber stamp on verso. Portfolio of 10.
MARILYN MONROE FULL SUITE AS PART OF ANDY WARHOL’S LARGER BODY OF WORK
The Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn) full suite was printed in 1967 by Aetna Silkscreen Products, Inc., New York. A portfolio of ten screenprints on paper with 250 signed in pencil and numbered with a rubber stamp on verso. Some of these prints are initialed on verso and some are dated. Also there are 26 AP signed and lettered A-Z on verso. Included in this suite are FS II.22 through FS II.31.
The Marilyn Monroe full suite are screenprints that make up one of Andy Warhol’s most recognized portfolios. Known for his fascination for the glitz and glamour that fame offers, Warhol used film star Marilyn Monroe as one of his earliest muses. The image of Monroe that Warhol used is based off of a publicity shot taken by Gene Korman for her 1953 film Niagara. The decision to use the publicity photograph as the basis of his series sparked much controversy and provoked conversation as to how much an artist can appropriate a ready-made motif before it becomes a legal issue.
Warhol recognized how famous she was as an actress, and he was interested in how her fame grew exponentially after her tragic death in August 1962. By making this portrait of Monroe, Warhol immortalized the actress in an almost propagandist nature. It has been said that Warhol created an icon out of an icon.
(3) Soup Can. Title: Campbell’s Soup I: Green Pea (FS II.50)
“Campbell’s Soup I: Green Pea” at Revolver Gallery is Andy Warhol’s 1968 art work that started his national and international fame leading to “Warhol” becoming both a household name and a style of Pop Art from the Pop Art King.
Medium: Portfolio of ten screenprints on paper
Size: 35” x 23”
Edition: Edition of 250 signed in ball-point pen and numbered with a rubber stamp on verso. There are 26 AP signed and lettered A – Z in ball-point pen on verso.
CAMPBELL’S SOUP I: GREEN PEA 50
Campbell’s Soup I: Green Pea 50 is part of Warhol’s first Campbell’s Soup portfolios, Campbell’s Soup I. One of the reasons that Warhol chose to feature Campbell’s soup was because of his fascination with consumer items and the claim that he had eaten Campbell’s Soup for lunch for most of his life. Throughout the 1960s, Warhol depicted familiar consumer items including Coca-Cola bottles. These Campbell’s Soup I prints are extremely dynamic with their very graphic imagery and simple color choices as the red stripe of the label is the main source of color in the image.
CAMPBELL’S SOUP I: GREEN PEA 50 AS PART OF ANDY WARHOL’S LARGER BODY OF WORK
One of Warhol’s most iconic portfolios, Campbell’s Soup I, is recognizable even by those who don’t know much about Andy or his body of work. It was with these soup cans that Warhol started to become a household name. His screenprints of Campbell’s Soup cans first made their appearance six years earlier when he produced 32 canvases, each representing a different type of soup, which were displayed in the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. When Warhol first showed the soup cans in California they created quite a stir. Even though Warhol is mostly connected to New York, he had an impact and connection with the art and artists in California in the early 60s.
(4) Flowers. Title: Flowers (FS II.67)
“Flowers” at Revolver Gallery is 1970 work of art where Warhol takes a photograph previously published in Modern Photography in June 1964 by Patricia Caulfield. In this commercial stock photo of hibiscus flowers, Warhol transforms the image through cropping, rotating and colorization creates an iconic abstract of contemporary art.
Medium: Portfolio of Ten Screenprints on Paper
Size: 36” x 36″
Edition: Edition of 250 signed in ball-point pen and numbered with a rubber stamp on verso; some dated. There are 26 AP signed and lettered A – Z in ball-point pen on verso.
Almost six years after his sellout show at the Leo Castelli Gallery where he introduced the world to his Flowers series, Warhol released a portfolio of 10 screenprints simply titled “Flowers.” The portfolio takes the same photograph by Patricia Caulfield he had used earlier, which he then crops, abstracts and inverts the image. The only difference between the portfolio prints is the colors used. In this particular print (FS II-67), there are two orange flowers, a yellow flower, and a purple flower on green grass.
The hibiscus flowers are unique for Warhol because they are delicate and represent fragility and purity. They are a departure and artistic shifting from his Disaster series, which he was working on prior to this. Even though these are a very different subject matter than we are used to seeing from Warhol, they are one of his most popular series, especially because of the bright, pop colors.
FLOWERS 67 AS PART OF ANDY WARHOL’S LARGER BODY OF WORK:
It was very common for Warhol to source material from advertisements, newspapers and magazines. He found the photograph for this artwork in a June 1964 issue of Popular Photography. What makes this subject matter unique is that it is different from his usual commercial or mass media imagery. What is very characteristic of Warhol is the vibrant and bright color combinations used throughout the portfolio. Flowers were the only subjects that Warhol continuously revisited throughout his entire career, exploring them in a variety of mediums.
The Dates of Creation, Subject Matter and Themes
What makes this four-piece collection exciting is the very limited time frame in which the four works were created. “Self-Portrait” (FS II.16) 1966; “Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn)”, Full Suite, 1967; “Campbell’s Soup I: Green Pea” (FS II.50) 1968; and
“Flowers” (FS II.67) 1970.
Fittingly, “Self-Portrait” was created in 1966 and is the first of our four-piece collection of “Essential Warhol”. It is revolutionary in that Warhol is taking a photograph of himself and transforming both it and the subject matter (Warhol) into art. Warhol as a provocateur is announcing to the art world himself. He presents himself to the world as both an icon and an enigma.
With his fingers over his mouth, he intently stares at the view with one side of his face indecipherable, covered in an opaque shadow. Remarkable, Warhol is presenting the artist, himself, as art and icon. It is said that the greatest creation by Warhol as an artist was himself. Here, in 1966, we have the young artist taking on the art world with a provocative portrait of the artist as a young man. Puckishly, Warhol poses as if he has a secret, and that secret is both revealed in plain sight and invisible, obscured in shadow. This is the irony of the art. This is the irony of the artist, as he proclaims to the world, “I’ve got a secret.” His ultimate reveal is the art, artist, and the artistic process, which are as provocative and interesting as a dancer and the dance. This portrait is Warhol’s coming out party to the art world.
One year later, “Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn)” in 1967 becomes part of that secret Warhol promised to reveal in his 1966 portrait. Having already elevated himself to icon status, he further elevates himself as artist and creator by rocking the art world with his use of repletion, neon colors and images of Marilyn Monroe (1926 – 1962) capturing her beauty, fame and tragic ending of her life at 36 at the height of her supernova career.
Marilyn is emblematic of the most popular sex symbol of the late 1950s and early 1960s. She also became an icon of the costs of fortune, celebrity and fame in 1962.
These many faces of Marilyn in Warhol’s 1967 work, just 5 years after her death, boldly shows 10 visages of Marilyn Monroe. The artist Warhol, subtly and subliminally, is asking “What Marilyn Monroe did you know?” Like his own portrait in 1966, Warhol seems to be challenging American percepts and perceptions on fortune, fame and at what price do they come?
As provocative as his and Marilyn Monroe’s portraits are, Warhol shows his depth and versatility with another provocateur image: “Campbell’s Soup I: Green Pea” (FS II.50) 1968. Here, Warhol again challenges his audience with the image of another type of American icon: The Campbell’s Soup Can. He infers a question that the American art world was not quite ready to handle in 1968: “What is art, what is consumerism, and what is commercial art? And what is the difference?” Like with his promise in his 1966 portrait, where he promises he has a secret, he makes good in his next two works challenging celebrity and consumerism and art in America in the Sixties. Warhol’s power is that he is standing behind the canvas that boldly asks its audience to define and distinguish art and celebrity—but he is not offering an answer.
Indeed, Warhol’s 1970 work “Flowers” challenges the art world in yet another direction. Beyond the three earlier works of artist as art subject (“Self Portrait”), America and celebrity and fame (“Monroe”), and what is art (“Campbell Soup Can”), Warhol further delivers on his promise of the 1966 “Self Portrait” in his transformative work, “Flowers”. Here Warhol takes a photograph previously published in Modern Photography in June 1964 by Patricia Caulfield. And in this commercial stock photo of hibiscus flowers, Warhol finds art.
The Evolution of Media
The size of the work and media are interesting as well. What makes this four-piece collection exciting, “Self-Portrait” (FS II.16) 1966 is an offset lithograph on silver coated paper measuring 23” x 23”. “Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn)”, Full Suite, 1967 is a screenprint on Paper sized 36″ x 36″; “Campbell’s Soup I: Green Pea” (FS II.50) 1968 is a screenprint on paper sized 35” x 23”; and “Flowers” (FS II.67) 1970 is a screenprints on Paper, sized 36” x 36″. Warhol varies size, paper and colors in a dazzling display of range of subjects and the unique adaptation of the silk-screening process in The Factory to produce high art in a never-before-seen process with a unique style and vision fueling the nascent beginnings of the Pop Art movement in America.