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Warhol's Women - 6 Iconic Portraits and the Stories Behind Them

  • Andy Warhol - Triple Mona Lisa
April 13, 2019
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

Throughout the decades, various aspects of the grandiose and rather complex artistic practice of Andy Warhol was explored; however, from time to time certain details of the same are reinterpreted and contextualized according to the latest researches.

For instance, The Prince of Pop was fascinated with women and femininity in general. Warhol adorned Hollywood divas, and was dazzled with their style, extravagant behavior, and lavish lifestyles. Such a devotion was transferred further to his Superstars – most of them being female, such as Eddie Sedgwick, or trans and drag queens, such as Candy Darling or Holly Woodlawn.

Throughout his entire career, he devotedly represented women regardless of age, figure, race or fame. Therefore, Lévy Gorvy gallery decided to present an extensive exhibition titled Warhol Women by featuring his portraits of women from the early 1960s through the 1980s.

Andy Warhol - Kimiko Powers
Andy Warhol – Kimiko Powers, 1972. Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas 40 x 40 inches (101.6 x 101.6 cm) © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander

The Warhol Women

This particular exhibition is aimed to explore how important women were to Andy Warhol; it will reflect on the artist’s complex and contradictory connection to ideals of femininity, beauty, and power, so it can be said that all of the works (made through his signature silk screen process) will show the ambiguities which hoover throughout entire Warhol’s oeuvre.

The show will transmit an intriguing intimacy of the portrayed subjects and will shed new light on the artist’s oeuvre in both historical and contemporary context of female empowerment and the construction of identity.

Andy Warhol - Aretha Franklin
Andy Warhol – Aretha Franklin, 1986. Synthetic polymner paint and silkscreen ink on canvas 40 x 40 inches (101.6 x 101.6 cm) © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander

The Installment

The exhibition will open with portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy (which will be described more closely in the text below), as well as Triple Mona Lisa from 1963; this particular piece is a reproduction of one of the best-known paintings made and is an homage to the timeliness of the female beauty.

The following segment will be devoted to Warhol’s earliest portraits such as the 1963 portraits of socialite and art collector Ethel Scull. Other paintings feature marginal figures as in the mid-1970s series Ladies and Gentleman series, which represent black and Hispanic drag queens which Warhol encounter in New York.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the artist was focused on the celebrity culture meaning that a number of paintings and other works featured mostly women from popular movies, music, fashion, politics, and high society in a standardized square format, so the closing segment of the exhibition will present these works (based on the images taken with a Polaroid camera).

Andy Warhol - Judy Garland (Multicolor)
Andy Warhol – Judy Garland (Multicolor), 1978. Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas 40 x 40 inches (101.6 x 101.6 cm) © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander

Andy Warhol at Lévy Gorvy

After all, stated above, it is important to note that the upcoming exhibition could not be possible without the loans from important public and privately owned institutions such as the Brant Foundation and the Froehlich Collection from Germany.

The selection of Warhol’s famous Screen Tests (short, silent, black-and-white films) will additionally contribute to a better understanding of the artist’s perception and representation of femininity. The projection will be located in a room coated in aluminum foil which evokes the silver environment of the Factory where these films were produced.

Warhol Women will be on display at Levy Gorvy in New York from 25 April until 15 June 2019.

Let us now take a look at six outstanding, memorable portraits of women created by Andy Warhol.

Editors’ Tip: Andy Warhol Portraits

Featuring more than 300 portraits made from the early 1960s until the artist’s death in 1987, Andy Warhol Portraits is the first book to provide a comprehensive view of this overlooked body of work, which includes such well-known twentieth-century icons as Jackie Kennedy, Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli, and Queen Elizabeth, as well as many paintings largely unknown even to avid followers. With contextualizing essays by longtime collaborator Tony Shafrazi and art critics Carter Ratcliff and Robert Rosenblum, this is a facebook of the amazing cast of characters that populated the artist’s fascinating, star-studded, and, at times, sordid world.

Featured images: Andy Warhol – Triple Mona Lisa, 1963. Silkscreen ink on linen, 22 1/4 x 39 1/2 inches (56.5 x 100.3 cm) © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. All images courtesy Lévy Gorvy.

  • Andy Warhol - Liquorice Marilyn
  • Andy Warhol - Mint Marilyn

Marilyn Monroe

One of the best known Warhol images is definitely the multiple portraits of Marilyn Monroe. This artwork is probably among the most copied and appropriated art history items. Namely, the artist depicted the actress for the first time in the Marilyn Diptych, shortly after her death in 1962. The basic Monroe image was taken from the 1953 motion picture Niagara. Warhol also did versions of the same image juxtaposed against mint, licorice, and azure background; Licorice Marilyn and Mint Marilyn (Turquoise Marilyn) in particular reflect the layers of Warhol’s adoration and desire reminiscent of a religious painting.

Featured images: Andy Warhol – Licorice Marilyn, 1962. Acrylic and silkscreen ink, 20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm) © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Andy Warhol – Mint Marilyn (Turquoise Marilyn), 1962. Acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, 20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm) © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Dorothy Zeidman.

  • Andy Warhol - Debbie Harry

Blondie

One of the leading figures of the new wave and punk scene in New York during the late 1970s and early 1980s was Debbie Harry, also known as Blondie, a band in which she was a lead singer. She was reinventing himself by establishing a firm connection with the younger artists and celebrities. By 1980, Blondie was indeed a big pop star, conquering top charts with hits such as Heart of Glass and Call Me, so the encounter with Warhol was inevitable, and so was the collaboration. Warhol quickly fell for Blondie’s charm and authentic persona and made a couple of iconic images of the singer.

Featured image: Andy Warhol – Blondie, 1981. Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, 42 x 42 inches (106.68 x 106.68 cm) © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

  • Andy Warhol - Red Jackie

Jackie Kennedy

The portraits of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis from the early 1960s are quite interesting in historical terms, since they depict Jackie before and after her husband’s assassination. Namely, these works can be interpreted as fragments of a cinematic narrative, a fine melodrama of exceptional glamour and sudden tragedy.

The monochromatic images of mourning Jackie are in a dialog with Red Jackie from 1964, in which Andy Warhol immortalized the iconic former First Lady in a sophisticated and fashionable manner.

Featured image: Andy Warhol – Red Jackie, 1964. Acrylic and silkscreen ink, 40 x 40 inches (101.6 x 101.6 cm) © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Froehlich Collection, Stuttgart. Courtesy Froehlich Collection, Stuttgart.

  • Andy Warhol - Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton

The next portrait on our list features Dolly Parton, one of the best-known country singers ever. The artist made it in 1985, and similarly to the portrait of Blondie, it reflects the artist’s fascination with pop culture, as well as the need to underline the role of women in the music industry during the 1980s. Aside from hits, Parton was known as a flamboyant persona with an authentic style and voluptuous makeup, so this portrait accentuates her best features and honors her fame.

Featured image: Andy Warhol – Dolly Parton, 1985. Silkscreen inks and synthetic polymer paints on canvas, 42 x 42 inches (106.7 x 106.7 cm) © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander.

  • Andy Warhol - Portrait of Julia Warhola

Julia Warhola

The most important woman in Andy Warhol’s life certainly was his mother Julia Warhola; she was quite crafty, and so she closely collaborated with him on few projects. Her decorative handwriting also often accompanied his illustrations, the perfect example being Wild Raspberries. Andy featured Julia in a 1966 movie called Mrs. Warhol, in which she acted as an aging movie star with a lot of husbands.

This portrait of Julia Warhola from 1974 is a posthumous homage to his mother, so can be perceived as a personal testimony reflecting Warhol’s struggle to maintain his private self and public persona.

Featured image: Andy Warhol – Portrait of Julia Warhola, September 1974. Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas 40 x 40 inches (101.6 x 101.6 cm) © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander.

  • Andy Warhol - Ladies and Gentlemen

Wilhelmina Ross

The last work on our list is a portrait of Wilhelmina Ross, who was the NYC drag queen and actress. Interestingly so, she appears in seventy-three of Warhol’s portraits, definitely more than any other drag queen of lower Manhattan from the famous series called Ladies and Gentlemen.

The reason for that probably lies in the glamour she embodied so well, which is somehow reminiscent of Josephine Baker and other Afro-American divas. As a matter of fact, the portraits of Ross evoke Warhol’s early portrayals of ‘superstars’ in a typical Pop aesthetic. In joint efforts, Warhol and Ross created a new American icon which is both a hero and a heroine, by combining photography and painting techniques to subvert the traditional understanding of gender in mid-1970s America.

Featured image: Andy Warhol – Ladies and Gentlemen, circa 1974-1975. Synthetic polymer and silkscreen inks on canvas, 119.5 x 80.75 x 1.5 inches (303.5 x 205.1 x 3.8 cm) © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander.