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Andy
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Discover art for sale. Buy and sell prints & editions online by Pop artist Andy Warhol. Blending consumerism with high art, Warhol changed the face of art history in the 1960s.

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Biography

Cultural icon and father of Pop Art, Andy Warhol is one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, both for his prints and celebrity status. Known as much for his life as his art, his name is synonymous with the celebrity culture and mass consumerism which came to define the American Dream.

Beginnings

Andy Warhol was born on 6 August 1928 in Pittsburgh, USA, the fourth child of Austro-Hungarian emigrants. From a young age he showed promise as an artist and went on to study commercial art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. In 1949 he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Pictorial Design and moved to New York.

First Paintings

Warhol’s success did not happen overnight. In 1949, the artist moved to New York from Pittsburgh to begin working as a commercial illustrator. Thereafter, his unique style began to develop, studying advertisements and experimenting with silk screen techniques towards the end of the 1950s. Warhol’s training in graphic design is elucidated by his early series Cats Named Sam from 1954. This series marks an important turning point in his career, demonstrating the artist’s excellent draughtsmanship and ingenious use of colour.

Some of Warhol’s other early works include Superman and False Plate, both completed in 1961, entirely freehand, as part of the Myths Series. They mark the legendary artist’s transition from an in-demand illustrator for various magazines and catalogues at the time, to a contemporary Pop Artist. The use of symbols like Superman in these early works foreshadow the fascination with pop American icons that run through Warhol’s entire oeuvre. Similarly, False Plate is inspired by consumer culture and everyday items and the language of advertisements.

Success

It was from 1962 that the artist began his experimentations with projecting and tracing images on the canvas, which was the method through which he eventually arrived at his signature silk-screening technique that brought him huge successes.

A string of exhibitions in the 1950s paved the way for Warhol’s celebrity, beginning with his first solo show, Fifteen Drawings Based On The Writings Of Truman Capote, at the Hugo Gallery in New York in 1952. However, when Irving Blum first held an exhibition of Campbell’s Soup canvases on grocery shelves in his Ferus Gallery in the early 60s, not everyone was amused. One art critic said of Warhol, 'This young 'artist' is either a soft-headed fool or a hard-headed charlatan,' and Willem de Kooning famously called him 'a killer of beauty'. Despite this it wasn’t long until artists and influencers were clamouring for his prints which were made in large editions and sold for a fraction of what they can be bought for now.

Most Famous Works

Undeniably, among Warhol’s most famous works are the Campbell’s Soup Can print series created from 1962, and his Marilyn Monroe series created in the same year.

The original Campbell’s Soup Can series consisted of 32 canvases created through screen printing and presented a direct affront to the dominance of Abstract Expressionism at the time. Countering prevalent notions of originality and authorship from the time, Warhol was ground-breaking for imitating processes of mechanical reproduction and distancing the hand of the artist.

The Marilyn Diptych consists of 50 images total based on a press image of the actress from the film Niagara and completed by Warhol in the weeks following Monroe’s tragic death.

These artworks are representative of the two main strains of Warhol’s artistic practice – everyday consumerism and the cult of celebrity. Now iconic images, they are synonymous with both Warhol’s name and the Pop Art movement more broadly, and were to be a contributing factor in making him the most famous artist of all time.

Influences

The long lasting influences of Dadaist artist Marcel Duchamp is present in Warhol’s work that both strives to shock and make use of everyday objects in the realm of fine art. Warhol’s cardboard Brillo boxes from 1964 and 1968 are very closely aligned to Duchamp’s concept of the ‘readymade’. The two artists also shared an interest in cross-dressing and photography. In 2010 the Andy Warhol Museum produced an exhibition that acknowledged the relationship between the two artists titled, ‘Twisted Pair: Marcel Duchamp/Andy Warhol’.

Unsurprisingly then, Warhol was also inspired by the Neo Dada group, which included the artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, who prided themselves in working within the gap between art and life. With his tongue in cheek subjects and brightly coloured silk screens Warhol sought to differentiate himself from the sombre formalism of Abstract Expressionism which had come to dominate the American post-war art world, proclaiming that, 'the Pop artists [made] images that anybody walking down Broadway could recognise in a split second…all the great modern things that the Abstract Expressionists tried so hard not to notice at all.'

Style & Technique

Warhol is most famous for bringing the commercial technique of screen printing into the world of fine art. Screen printing allowed the artist to reproduce images many times and create the effect that the image has been mass-produced and removed from the artist’s hand. In an interview with Art News interviewer Gene Swenson in 1963, Warhol explained, ‘The reason I’m painting this way is that I want to be a machine, and I feel that whatever I do and do machine-like is what I want to do.’

From 1964, Warhol largely worked from his studio known as the Silver Factory, and this became a key part of his art making process. Not just a place where Warhol’s prints were produced, the Factory became an all-encompassing creative centre for parties and experimentation, where a diverse and dynamic group of artists, friends and celebrities visited and became muses themselves.

Warhol did not just work in illustration and screen printing, in the late 1960s he expanded into performance, film and photography. The artist even managed the now iconic art-rock group The Velvet Underground during this period, making clear his dedication to art in all its forms.

Life & Times

Many of Warhol’s works throughout his career point to the artist’s sexuality as a gay man, despite the criminalisation of homosexuality at the time in the United States. Warhol’s sexuality has remained a topic that is spoken little about in relation to his life and work, a reminder of the lasting effects of the homophobia that characterised the socio-political landscape of mid-late 20th-century America. In the 1950s Warhol produced sketchbooks of drawings of the male form, including studies of feet, torsos and genitalia, entitled, Boy Portraits. His films from the 1960s were also overlain with references to homosexual desire and sexual escapades. The artists Sex Parts and Torso series from the 1970s also engaged with the male (and female) nude form.

After losing the lease on his Silver Factory in 1967, Warhol was famously shot in 1968 in his studio by the writer Valerie Solanas, who featured in his film I, a Man (1967). The shooting was nearly fatal and had a profound effect on the rest of the artist’s life and output, marking a transition from Warhol’s all-encompassing, experimental art practice, to one more subdued.

Last Paintings

One of Warhol’s last works was Last Supper based on Leonardo da Vinci’s Renaissance masterpiece, completed in 1986 about a year before the artist’s death.

The artwork is prophetic, touching upon key themes within Warhol’s oeuvre and personal life, such as religion, mortality, and symbolic iconography. The original artwork is the largest size ever brought to auction by the Pop Artist; it sold for $60,875,000 with Christie’s in 2017, among one of the highest prices ever achieved for Warhol’s work. This work was on display on a huge scale at Tate Modern’s Warhol retrospective in 2020.

On The Market

Today Warhol remains one of the greats of the post-war era, with the demand and record prices for his work demonstrating the continued relevance of his work and the Pop Art movement to contemporary collectors. As Warhol himself put it, 'Once you ‘got’ pop, you could never see a sign the same way again. And once you thought pop, you could never see America the same way again.'

Prints and Editions

It is hard to say how many portfolios Andy Warhol released in his lifetime, but the Pop artist produced 16 portfolios which consisted of 10 or more prints. Of those 16, one was called Flash-November 22nd, 1963-1968, which has never been considered a mainstream portfolio (like the Marilyns, Flowers, and Soup Cans.) Also included in the group of 16 are a pair of portfolios, Flowers (Black and White) and Flowers (Hand-Coloured), neither of which are considered important portfolios.

There are numerous Warhol portfolios consisting of four prints, five prints and eight prints, and all of Warhol's portfolios are included in the Andy Warhol Print Catalogue Raisonne. There are far more signed editions on the market, virtually all genuine Warhol prints are signed.

1. £66.2M for Andy Warhol's Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)

Taken from his Death and Disaster series, the top price realised for Warhol at auction was achieved in 2013 for Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) at Sotheby’s in 2013. An undeniably powerful work, this monumental painting bears witness to the circumstances of disaster and reflects on the long tradition of history painting in art from Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa to Picasso’s Guernica.

Here Warhol transforms a tragic scene, repeating it over and over again until it resembles frames from a film or animation, its black and white surface turned silvery for posterity. The work was made in 1963, a seminal – and somewhat melancholic – year for Warhol in which he also produced Suicides, Race Riots and Silver Electric Chair.

Triple Elvis (Ferus Type) by Andy Warhol

Triple Elvis [Ferus Type] © Andy Warhol 1963

2. £51.6M for Andy Warhol's Triple Elvis

Having turned Marilyn Monroe’s iconic features into innumerable silkscreen prints it was only natural that Warhol should take Elvis as his subject in this 1963 painting. Repeating the figure of the King in his dynamic cowboy stance as he draws his gun, Triple Elvis (Ferus Type) takes on a cinematic quality that elevates the star’s image from pop icon to demigod. At the same time, the background colour recalls the silver screen of Hollywood as well as the baroque ornaments of the Catholic church Warhol grew up in, surrounded by painted icons to be venerated and reproduced for the masses.

Sixty Last Suppers by Andy Warhol

Sixty Last Suppers © Andy Warhol 1986

3. £46.2M for Andy Warhol's Sixty Last Suppers

Painted in the last year of Warhol’s life, Sixty Last Suppers is testament to the artist’s enduring love for the old masters. That year Warhol also produced The Last Supper (Pink) and The Camouflage Last Supper which along with the current work were based on reproductions of a 19th century copy of the original painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

By applying his silkscreen technique to a 16th century masterpiece and reproducing it into a monumental grid of repeated images, Warhol was seen to be entering into a dialogue with the Western art historical canon that came before him. In addition, referencing his own roots in the catholic church and perhaps questioning the value of a single image over many.

Four Marlons by Andy Warhol

Four Marlons © Andy Warhol 1966