On this day ninety-two years ago, a boy called Andrew was born in the immigrant Warhola family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Throughout his childhood, nobody could tell, except perhaps Andrew’s mother, that the shy boy was is going to become one of the most important visual artists of the second half of the 20th century.
In 1949, after attending the Carnegie Technical Institute, Andy Warhol moved to New York to pursue work as a commercial artist. While working for different advertising agencies, the artist started experimenting with mass-produced advertising images that led him to appropriate silkscreen, a novel technique at the time. By the 1960s, Warhol started exhibiting his works throughout the country, which were an immediate success but also the result of his unprecedented management and self-promotion. During this period, he established his notorious studio and one of a kind cultural hub called The Factory, started experimenting with photography and film, launched Superstars, and acted as a manager of the band Velvet Underground.
In brief, Andy Warhol revolutionized the very notion of the artist and the artwork while simultaneously obtaining the commercial and experimental aspects of his artistic practice. Quite a number of Warhol’s artworks are that iconic that almost every other person knows it, at least visually. Portraits of Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, the Campbell’s Soup cans installations, silkscreens of Coca Cola and Brillo boxes, images of flowers, are just some that marked the entire era.
Although flamboyant and seductive, Warhol’s works operated on several levels while being rather critical of American society and culture. Although he passed away in 1988 and left an incredible legacy behind him, Warhol is one of those art figures that seem still very much alive due to the never-ending interest in various aspects of his oeuvre.
To mark his birthday, we selected ten dazzling Warhol artworks which you can add to your collection while reading the text below.
Featured image: Andy Warhol - Marilyn. Serigraph on paper. Dimensions: 91 x 91 cm. All images courtesy of their galleries.
The first artwork on our celebratory top list belongs to the famous Warhol series, the Flowers. The same was launched around 1964 after the artist found inspiration in an issue of Modern Photography. Namely, he appropriated a photograph of hibiscus blossoms and processed it through the silkscreen technique. The same year the Flowers debuted at the influential Leo Castelli Gallery.
The series is a definite reflection of the social and political circumstances of that time (the Flower Power movement of the 1960s, and the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy.
Now we have a collection of ten postcards featuring Mick Jagger produced in 1975. They were a result of the friendship between the celebrated rock and roll legend, the lead singer in British band The Rolling Stones. We may presume that the collaboration is not just a coincidence as Jagger nurtured the controversial behavior followed by an almost androgynous style. Therefore, he is depicted as a bad boy, bare-chested, and wild. Sorted in a collage form, the irregularly shaped images were additionally polished with hand-drawn elements (that were also printed).
This particular work titled Salade de Alf Landen was one of the illustrations from the cookbook Wild Raspberries written by Warhol’s mother, Julia, and illustrated by the artist in 1959. The same year, interior decorator Suzie Frankfurt got acquainted with Warhol and immediately fell for his work at the time he still worked as an art director at Doubleday. Frankfurt and Warhol became good friends and decided to produce handmade books that mocked the trendy French cookbooks popular in the 1950s, and that is how the Wild Raspberries came to life.
This particular self-portrait made in 1966 depicts Warhol in his typical shy pose and with a signature hairdo. His own image was now differently accentuated with the red and yellow contrast and presented in a circular form that was rarely used by the artist.
The fifth artwork on our top list depicts the Brooklyn Bridge, as a famous American site. The same was a result of a commission acquired for the Brooklyn Bridge’s 100th Anniversary and was ultimately used as the official artwork for this event. This work perfectly illustrates the artist’s signature color block technique made possible by offset printing technique which differs aesthetically from his other and more typical works.
This particular work is more abstract than the others in this list, as it features the presidential seal. The very decision to represent one of the constitutional elements of the American identity, along with the constitution and the White House, is probably ambiguous since can be perceived as equally subversive and literal.
The seventh Warhol artwork features a double portrait of the controversial British duo Gilbert & George, still active today and known for their living sculptures, installations, and other works critical of the UK society. The Polaroids were shot by Warhol in 1975, after an American art dealer and Warhol’s friend, William Burke, arranged the shooting. The silkscreen double portrait made on the basis of the Polaroid shots was presented by Warhol to the British artists at the Savoy in London in June 1976.
Edward Ted Kennedy was an American politician active as a U.S. Senator for almost forty years, and Warhol depicted him in 1980 to raise funds for Kennedy’s Presidential campaign. It is not unusual for Warhol to portray the political figure, as he did previously Alexander the Great, Vladimir Ilich Lenin Mao Tse Tung. Warhol was friends with Jacqueline (Jackie) Kennedy, whom he presented in a specially crafted portfolio, alongside Flash, a portfolio of the death of John F. Kennedy.
Perhaps Warhol’s best-known series dedicated to Marilyn Monroe was produced by the artist in 1967, at the time he established Factory Additions, a printing business through which he issued a series of screen-print portfolios. Based on the publicity still of the actress the series became the iconic work of the 1960s immortalizing Monroe forever.
The last but not least Warhol's artwork on our list is the one belonging to the Death and Disaster series launched by the artist in 1962. Consisting of a medium-size canvas that was screen-printed with silver acrylic paint, Electric Chair depicts an empty room before the execution and reflects Warhol’s articulation of the notion of death.