Taken from the artist’s Flowers series (1970), Flowers (F. & S. II.71) is one of Andy Warhol’s most identifiable prints showing four hibiscus flowers in excessively saturated colours. This print is exemplary of the way in which Warhol appropriated and abstracted images to convey underlying political commentaries that are not necessarily apparent upon first look.
The Flowers (F. & S. II.71) print is somewhat menacing in character, despite the light-heartedness of the subject matter. Due to Warhol’s manipulation of colour, the hibiscus flowers display a garish quality and the background of undergrowth is flattened into two contrasting tones of blue and dark red. Produced in the years following Warhol’s Death and Disaster paintings, Thirteen Most Wanted Men portraits and the portraits of Jackie Kennedy following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Flowers series is unexpected in its subject matter. Warhol is said to have used the flowers motif as a symbol of purity and fragility amidst widespread violence, his psychedelic colour palette strongly linked to the rise of the Flower Power movement of the 1960s.
In his choice of bright colours and simplified form, Warhol creates an aesthetically pleasing print, however the Flowers series references subversive and subliminal themes surrounding the existence of death in life. Warhol used flowers as symbols of nature’s ephemerality and the fleeting impermanence of beauty. Death was a frequent theme in Warhol’s life and work, as such, alongside images of Jackie Kennedy, Marylin Monroe, skulls, electric chairs and car crashes, these brightly coloured flowers became the perfect abstract tool to capture the brevity of life on canvas.