Within this unusual series, Warhol turned his commercially-inspired style towards Gothic architecture. Captured from a low angle, Warhol emphasised the enormity of the towering cathedral, and imbued it with distinctly Pop drama through colour and graphic outlines.
Cologne Cathedral is, perhaps, Germany's most iconic landmark, attracting some 20,000 visitors a day. The cathedral dates back to 1248, and is the tallest twin-spired church in the world, making it an integral part of Germany's history and the history of Christianity itself. The cathedral houses the reliquary of the Three Kings, an enduring symbol of strength in the Christian religion.
As a devout Catholic himself, Warhol sometimes sought creative inspiration from historical religious iconography, as we also see in his Saint Apollonia series. While he lived with his mother, Julia Warhola, he prayed daily and continued to attend mass regularly throughout his life. It is hardly surprising that Warhol should turn to religious imagery, as it had been a constant source of guidance and comfort throughout his life.
Though there are variations in colour, outlines, and layering in this print series, each work depicts Cologne Cathedral from the same low vantage point. From this angle, Warhol exaggerated the height of the cathedral almost to hyperbole.
As in his Renaissance Paintings series, Cologne Cathedral marks a point of departure in Warhol's work, with a change in focus from pop culture to historical sources. The series is testament to Warhol's command over a wide range of subject matter, and his ever-expanding eclectic ouevre.
Thanks to his application of diamond dust particles during the printing process, the works in this series have a material richness that heightens the spectacular subject depicted. Warhol used this to emphasis the luxe appearance of commodities in his Diamond Dust Shoes series, and here he used the technique to add to the splendour of this iconic monument of faith.
Though Warhol had always been keen to employ bold colours and graphic outlines, his later work is underscored by more nuance in colour and overlapping. Within this series, Warhol used carefully delineated lines in an array of colours to emphasise the architectural detail of Cologne Cathedral.
Warhol is famed for his depictions of the infamous celebrities of his age. Though his work was sometimes inspired by animals, fashion, and art history, Warhol rarely ever turned his attention to architecture. As one of the only buildings he ever rendered in print, we can infer that Cologne Cathedral was of particular personal significance to Warhol.
Though Cologne Cathedral has been the subject of many photographic and painted studies over the centuries, Warhol offered an innovative interpretation of the religious landmark. Particularly in his Cologne Cathedral (A), we see Warhol's graphic approach to the Gothic cathedral, as he started his compositions with this abstracted triangle to frame its towering spires.
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