Andy Warhol – Can of Soup

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In Andy Warhol’s time, no serious painter would have thought to paint such an ordinary object as a can of soup. But Warhol did. And his fame came from his ability to turn everyday objects into intriguing works of art.

There are contradicting stories published as to who gave Warhol the idea to paint soup cans. The most commonly printed version goes like this. In 1960, his friend Muriel Latow came to visit. During that time Warhol was discouraged with his work. He discovered that he was doing the same kind of modern comic strip art as another local artist Roy Lichtenstein but Roy was more successful. So, he asked Latow, who happened to own an art gallery herself, for advice. She said, “You should paint something that everybody sees everyday…like a can of soup.”

Can of Soup

Cambell’s Soup Can – 1968

He took her advice. He started making “portraits” of each of the 32 varieties of Campbell’s soups against a white background. “Tomato soup will never be just tomato soup again,” said critic Ivan Karp quoted in Warhol, By David Bourdon.

Over the next two years, he continued to paint a series of Campbell’s soup cans. Sometimes he used stencils and other times he used pencil, ink, crayons, acrylic and oil paints. He painted enormous still lifes or sad-looking soups with torn labels. Often times he multiplied the can image with the silkscreen method. One of the most famous pieces in the series is 100 Cans multiplying Beef Noodle soup 100 times.

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His soup series appeared in an art gallery in the summer of 1962. But not everyone appreciated his new approach to modern art. According to Andy Warhol: Pop Art Painter, by Susan Coldman Rubin, a supermarket stacked Campbell’s soup in the window with a sign that read, “the real thing for only 29 cents a can.” He used the public putdown as publicity. He took a photographer to the market and had his picture taken signing the cans of soup. The photo appeared in newspapers everywhere, according to Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, by Bob Colacello.

He went on to paint other inanimate objects in this artistic phase. He painted dollar bills, Brillo pads and Heinz ketchup boxes, and Coca-Cola bottles. “I just paint things I always thought were beautiful . . . things you use every day and never think about,” said Warhol, quoted in Victor Bockirs’ book The Life and Death of Andy Warhol. He had a way of choosing objects from American culture that have achieved a genuinely iconic status in contemporary civilization. Warhol often multiplied the images over and over on the same canvas creating the idea that his art like the objects themselves were made by a machine. Warhol even once said, “The reason I’m painting this was is that I want to be a machine.”

In 1980, Warhol declared that he wished to be remembered as a soup can, which may very well become the case. Now, his art is celebrated worldwide and shown continually in museums almost always showcasing his Campbell’s representations.

At the end of his career in 1983, The Campbell’s Soup Company hired him to create a new series of paintings of their dry soup mixes.

A reporter once asked him, “Did you ever image when you painted your first soup can, that it would become art?”

“No,” said Andy. “It’s like anything. You just work. If it happens, it happens.”

Andy Warhol – Short Biography

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The young Andrew Warhola of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, never would have guessed he would become the world famous Pop Artist of the 60s and 70s Andy Warhol.

After a childhood of honing his artistic talent, he studied fine arts at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. Even in college he did things his own way. For one of his final projects, just to be different, he cut a painting into four parts and submitted it as four separate assignments. His originality cost him his enrollment that semester. After a summer of painting the customers at the family fruit stand, he showed the portraits to the faculty and was readmitted to Carnegie Tech.

After graduating, he moved from Pittsburgh to New York with his friend Philip Pearlstein. The move marked the starting point of an entirely new existence: Andrew Warhola died and from his ashes Andy Warhol rose. In New York, he worked as a successful freelance commercial artist for well-known magazines as Glamour, Vogue, The New Yorker, and Harper’s Bazaar. He also worked for retail stores such as Tiffany & Co., Bergdorf Goodman, and Bonwit Teller; and most notably, for the I. Miller shoe company. It was his work on the shoe ads that won him prestige and financial security.

His work began to obtain certain recognition. For most of his work in this period, he used the blotted-line technique. He accidentally discovered this technique as a student when, by chance, he applied some blotting paper onto one of his ink drawings: the resulting impression fascinated him because it looked like a reproduction.

In 1960, he wanted to change his profession from a commercial artist to a serious fine art painter. Among his first efforts were works depicting comic strips characters in oil. He discovered that another young painter, Roy Lichtenstein, was working on the same idea but with better results. Warhol quickly abandoned the comic idea.

After the Bonwit Teller department stores used five of Warhol’s paintings as backdrops for its window displays, his fine art painting career started. It was then that he debuted some of his most famous and recognizable themes: the Campbell’s Soup Cans, The Disasters, and portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

His career exploded in the early 60s and he gained credence in the art world after his famous Gold Marilyn Monroe was purchased for the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This is when Warhol was named one of the leading artists in the new art movement known as “Pop Art,” short for popular art.

In 1964, he moved his studio to a loft in a warehouse on East 47th Street, the original Factory. Warhol became a leader of a factory of art-workers churning out works as from an assembly line. The Factory itself became a work of art as it was transformed with theatrical lighting, aluminum foil and silver paint. It was more than a studio. It became the trendiest place for the “in” crowd to gather in New York’s cultural universe.

The year 1966 marked the beginning of his close collaboration with the musical group The Velvet Underground as the two staged multimedia “happenings” in New York and California. Two years later, the radical feminist Valerie Solanas shot Warhol in an assassination attempt. Severely wounded, Warhol spent almost two months in the hospital.

After the ‘60s Warhol’s output skyrocketed in virtually every artistic field. Soon his fame began to eclipse that of his celebrity portrait subjects. His work in the 1970s and 1980s was more expressive and visually more complex, adding vitality to the coldness of the silkscreen medium.

His career experienced one final twist as he turned to more abstract works as his Oxidation Paintings, Shadows, Egg Paintings, and Threads. On February 22, 1987, following a routine gallbladder surgery, he died in a New York hospital at age 58. His death not only marked the end of a great artist but also the end of an era.

Andy Warhol – Famous Work

Andy Warhol said it himself: “Art is anything you can get away with.” And he got away with making the most ordinary objects we see in everyday life beautiful and intriguing. He made groceries, common objects, and familiar faces into some of the most recognizable and iconic art works.

His Campbell’s Can of Soup series is among his most famous work. He started the series by making “portraits” of each of the 32 varieties of Campbell’s soups against a white background. Sometimes he used stencils and other times he used pencil, ink, crayons, acrylic and oil paints. He painted enormous still lifes or sad-looking soups with torn labels. Often times he multiplied the can image with the silkscreen method. One of the most famous pieces in the series is 100 Cans multiplying Beef Noodle soup 100 times.

Not only did his subject choice influence modern art but so did his most common silkscreen technique. With the silkscreen method he would start with a photo. He would then blow it up and transfer it in glue onto silk, and then toll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. Using this silkscreen method, you get the same image, slightly different each time. It was simple, quick, and chancy. That is why he loved it. But he also said once that the reason he paints this way is because he wants to be a machine: an art machine.

The primitive printing technique was the method for the next phase of his well-known pieces. The Disasters was a series of silkscreen pieces taken from newspaper clippings about horrific events usually involving death. One of his most famous among this phase was the Tunafish Disasters, the story of two women who were poisoned with tainted tuna. This piece was almost the exact black and white image that appeared in the original article. It even included the exact text from the news of the two deaths.

During this artistic phase he also reproduced images depicting plane crashes, suicides (horrific suicides like a man jumping off a building), car accidents, and other images of death such as an electric chair and guns. He was known for repeating the same image on the canvas illustrating the commonality of these types of events in everyday life. He also played with color to bring an even more haunting image to the viewer.

His fascination with both death and beautiful things led him to his next series, the Marilyns. The Marilyn series was a reproduction of the famous promotional image for the 1953 film “Niagara.” He made the photo into a silkscreen and screened a single image of her face onto small canvases. He then multiplied her image in Six Marilyns, Marilyn Twenty Times, and One Hundred Marilyns.

In some pieces he just painted her ruby lips and blonde hair with contrasting skin colors. In another Marilyn, he took multiple images of her lips, one of her most sensual and familiar features, creating a sort of kissing machine. For the famous Gold Marilyn Monroe, he painted the entire canvas with gold paint with a single picture of her face in the silkscreen depicting her as a goddess of sensuality.

A turning point in Warhol’s career was when Architect Philip Johnson, director of the Architecture and Design Department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York purchased Gold Marilyn Monroe for the museum. This gave Warhol great credence in the art world especially when a panel of critics, curators, and art historians saw his Gold Marilyn in the museum. That day they named the new modern art movement “Pop Art” short for popular, with Warhol as a pioneer.
Through his career, he went on to do portraits of many other well-known figures such as Mao, Jackie Kennedy, Liz Taylor, and Dolly Parton. Even his self-portraits became famous for his unique imagery and conceptual style that changed the face of modern art.

Andy Warhol – Facts

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” Andy Warhol, while famous for works like his iconic Campbell’s Soup Can print, will perhaps be remembered best for his now prescient quote regarding fame in modern society.

Warhol started his career as a commercial illustrator, and made a simple transition from producing work for ads to producing ads ironically as art, in what became known as Pop Art. This eventually led to making general observations on popular culture via art, which many critics at the time regarded as fraudulent and not real art.

Even while working as an ad artist, Warhol was known for shopping his work out to his peers, building a stable or artists that he would rely on. Some of the work that is most closely associated with him was, in fact, merely thought up by Warhol and produced by someone else under his guidance. Eventually, this evolved into Warhol’s famous Factory, where he surrounded himself with like-minded artists, most of whom were under his direction.

Warhol’s reliance on collaboration with others was regarded as controversial at the time, because he was technically taking full credit for work that was not all his own. It is worth noting, however, that many famous painters, such as Picasso and Rembrandt, surrounded themselves with students who became so talented at mimicking their teachers that the differences are still difficult to distinguish today. The gap between the practices of these older, accepted artists and Warhol’s own practices with the Factory seem negligible at best.

Warhol was fascinated by visual art in all its mediums, and embraced the new, cheaper availability of film technology to make avant garde cinema in addition to paintings, screen printings, and sculpture. Warhol’s Factory members, including musicians, artists, models, and bohemians often appeared in his cinematic work.

The openness of Warhol’s Factory came to a near-fatal halt on June 3, 1968 when he and Mario Amaya, a critic and curator, were both shot by radical feminist Valerie Solanas. Amaya escaped with only grazes, but Warhol was seriously wounded. He barely survived the attack and suffered physical repercussions from it for the rest of his life. Solanas said that she attacked Warhol because, “He had too much control over my life.” She had appeared in one of Warhol’s films.

During the seventies, Warhol became more of an entrepreneur, seeking out celebrities who would commission expensive portraits, including Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson. It was also during this period that he created his famous portrait of Mao Tse-Tung.

Warhol often chose specific artists that he would ‘adopt,’ notably the band The Velvet Underground, for which he created the famous ‘banana’ cover for the album The Velvet Underground and Nico.

During the seventies, Warhol became associated with the disco and club scenes in New York, where he would frequently be seen on the periphery, a quiet, pale man simply observing. Most notably he frequented iconic discos like Serendipity 3 and Studio 54.

In the eighties, Warhol became widely renowned again, this time as a discover of young artists, most notably Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as Julian Schnabel (who would later direct a film about Basquiat) and David Salle, leaders of the school called Neo-Expressionism.

It is telling that Warhol has appeared as a character in almost twenty films, portrayed by talents as diverse as Guy Pearce (Factory Girl), David Bowie (Basquiat), and Crispin Glover (The Doors). He has also appeared as a character in Austin Powers and an episode of The Simpsons, representing just how iconic a figure he is in American pop culture.

Andy Warhol died February 22, 1987, following complications after a gallbladder surgery in New York. He was buried in Pittsburgh next to his parents, in a black cashmere suit and wearing his trademark platinum wig. He was also buried with a copy of Interview magazine, an Interview t-shirt, a rose, a prayer book, and a bottle of Estee Lauder Beautiful perfume.

He had so many possessions at the time of his death that it took Sotheby’s nine days to sell it all off, generating more than 20 million dollars.

In 2007, on the 20th anniversary of Warhol’s death, the Gershwin Hotel in New York hosted a week-long event remembering Warhol’s work and influence. Attendees included the superstars of his Factory, his peers, his subjects, and his fans. Blondie performed, and The Carrozzini von Buhler Gallery in New York hosted an exhibit of work by Warhol and his students, as well as work of a younger generation inspired by Warhol.

Andy Warhol – Marilyn Monroe

It was her fame, eroticism, and mysterious death that fascinated Warhol and inspired a “painted print” series honoring Marilyn Monroe. It was just after her mysterious suicide in 1962 that Warhol started the series. It ironically linked his previous work, which focused on images of death to his next phase: celebrity portraits.

Warhol’s portraits constitute a genuine gallery of the most influential and famous figures of his age. Politicians, movie stars, and art dealers are among the many named in this long list. They were emblems of beauty, glamour, and power.

 

Marilyn Monroe Montage

It is fitting that Miss Beauty and Glamour Herself begins Warhol’s tribute to Hollywood’s celebrities. Like many of his star models, Warhol actually met Monroe in person. “She fascinated me as she did the rest of America,” Warhol was quoted saying in I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews by Kenneth Goldsmith.

The Marilyn series was a reproduction of the famous promotional image for the 1953 film “Niagara.” He made the photo into a silkscreen and screened a single image of her face onto small canvases. He then multiplied her image in Six Marilyns, Marilyn Twenty Times, and One Hundred Marilyns. In some pieces he just painted her ruby lips and blonde hair with contrasting skin colors. In another Marilyn, he took multiple images of her lips, one of her most sensual and familiar features, creating a sort of kissing machine. For the famous Gold Marilyn Monroe, he painted the entire canvas with gold paint with a single picture of her face in the silkscreen depicting her as a goddess of sensuality.

A turning point in Warhol’s career was when Architect Philip Johnson, director of the Architecture and Design Department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York purchased Gold Marilyn Monroe for the museum. This gave Warhol great credence in the art world especially when a panel of critics, curators, and art historians saw his Gold Marilyn in the museum. That day they named the new modern art movement “Pop Art” short for popular, with Warhol as a pioneer.

 

Gold Marilyn

Through his career, he went on to do portraits of many other well-known figures such as Mao, Jackie Kennedy, Liz Taylor, and Dolly Parton. Even his self-portraits became famous for his unique imagery and conceptual style.

He created his usually larger-than-life portraits by first taking a snapshot of the subject, often with a simple Polaroid camera. He would then blow it up and transfer it in glue onto silk, and then toll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. Using this silkscreen method, you get the same image, slightly different each time. It was simple, quick, and chancy.

It was like an art assembly line, creating works with double or multiple portraits emphasizing the overwhelming presence of his models in popular culture. The multiple images created a sense of a manufactured celebrity made by Hollywood.

The more celebrity portraits he did increased his own fame and wealth. It not only increased the amount of celebrities he actually knew personally but the ease of replicating these portraits gave a boost to his success and profits. Warhol never concealed the fact that the genre had become an easy money-making tool for him.

Andy Warhol Biography

born August 6, 1928, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
died February 22, 1987, New York, New York

Original name Andrew Warhola. American artist and filmmaker, an initiator and leading exponent of the Pop art movement of the 1960swhose mass-produced art apotheosized the supposed banality of thecommercial culture of the United States. An adroit self-publicist, he projected a concept of the artist as an impersonal, even vacuous, figure who is nevertheless a successful celebrity, businessman, and social climber.

The son of Czechoslovak immigrants, Warhol graduated from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, with a degree in pictorialdesign in 1949. He then went to New York City, where he worked as a commercial illustrator for about a decade. Warhol began painting in the late 1950s and received sudden notoriety in 1962, when he exhibited paintings of Campbell’s soup cans, Coca-Cola bottles, and wooden replicas of Brillo soap padboxes. By 1963 he was mass-producing these purposely banal images of consumer goods by means of photographic silk screen prints, and he then began printing endless variations of portraits of celebrities in garish colours. The silk screen technique was ideally suited to Warhol, for the repeated imagewas reduced to an insipid and dehumanized cultural icon that reflected both the supposed emptiness of American material culture and the artist’s emotional noninvolvement with the practice of his art. Warhol’s work placed him in the forefront of the emerging Pop art movement in America.

As the 1960s progressed, Warhol devoted more of his energy to filmmaking. Usually classed as underground films, such motion pictures of his as The Chelsea Girls (1966), Eat (1963), My Hustler (1965), and Blue Movie (1969) are known for their inventive eroticism, plotless boredom, and inordinate length (up to 25 hours). In 1968 Warhol was shot and nearly killed by one of his would-be followers, a member of his assemblage of underground film and rock music stars, assorted hangers-on, and social curiosities. Warhol had by this time become a well-known fixture on the fashion and avant-garde art scene and was an influential celebrity in his own right. Throughout the 1970s and until his death he continued to produce prints depicting political and Hollywood celebrities, and he involved himself in a wide range of advertising illustrations and othercommercial art projects. His The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, published in 1975, was followed by Portraits of the Seventies (1979) and Andy Warhol’s Exposures (1979).