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Recherche du Shoe Perdu

A pair of print portfolios, Andy Warhol’s La Recherche du Shoe Perdu translates to ‘in search of the lost [shoe]’, a nod to Proust’s novel La Recherche du Temps Perdu. Completed around 1955, the offset lithographs feature 16 individualized shoes (plus cover), calligraphy by Warhol’s mother, and hand-colouring.

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Meaning & Analysis

A set of 2 portfolios, Warhol’s La Recherche du Shoe translates to ‘in search of lost time’ - a nod to Marcel Proust’s novel of the same name The portfolios feature hand-written decorative lettering on the front cover by Warhol’s mother, Julia Warhola, making each set utterly unique. A few of the earliest copies she mis-spelt ‘recherche’ and instead wrote ‘pecherche’ in error.

This collection of shoe design illustrations was most likely completed in 1955, the very same year Warhol started to work with the I. Miller shoe company to produce weekly shoe drawings for a new sophisticated relaunch of the company under the guidance of Peter Palazzo. The drawings were for an advertisement to be run in the society pages of the New York Times and Warhol stayed with the company until 1957.

After graduating in Pictorial Design from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1949, Warhol moved to New York, where he became one of the most successful and imitated illustrators of the 1950s, with clients such as Harper’s Bazaar and Tiffany & Co. Warhol had already carved out a working history with illustration and advertisement, and previously produced shoe drawings for the magazine, Glamour.

With À La Recherche Du Shoe Perdu, Warhol took into consideration previous constructive advice mentioned to him by the editor of Glamour, Tina Fredericks, that the shoes shouldn’t look as though they have character – rather they should give the appearance that they had never been worn.

The portfolios consist of lithographs with additional hand-colouring in watercolour on woven paper. They would have been completed by Warhol and his close friends at the so-called ‘colouring parties’ he would attend. The hand colouring gives a home-made feel, allowing each sheet produced to be one-of-a-kind.

Prior to creating the bound books In the Bottom of my Garden and À la recherche du shoe perdu, Warhol had produced offset lithographs but those were not in colour and therefore these two books were significant of his progressive development. He kept the production stages simple and costs low by enlisting the help of friends to help hand colour each sheet with watercolour. Each image is footed by captions in Julia Warhola’s hand, featuring popular song lyrics and film names with puns towards shoes such as ‘I dream of Jeannie with the light brown shoe’ and ‘Dial M for shoe’.

10 Facts About Andy Warhol's La Recherche du Shoe Perdu

You Can Lead A Shoe To Water But You Can’t Make It Drink by Andy Warhol

You Can Lead A Shoe To Water But You Can’t Make It Drink © Andy Warhol 1950

1. The series was created for the I. Miller & Sons shoe company.

In the same year that Warhol began working with the I. Miller & Sons shoe company, they commissioned him to make this series to market their relaunch. The prints were released as a weekly shoe drawing, run in the society pages of the New York Times.

Cover from À La Recherche Du Shoe Perdu by Andy Warhol

Cover from À La Recherche Du Shoe Perdu © Andy Warhol c.1955

2. The title of the series nods to Marcel Proust's novel À la Recherche du Temps Perdu.

Translating to "In Search of Lost Time", this series borrows its title from Proust's novel of the same title. Proust's semi-autobiographical novel follows the author's search for truth, whereas Warhol's print series alludes to the lifestyles led by those wearing a pair of I. Miller & Sons heels.

Untitled from À La Recherche Du Shoe Perdu by Andy Warhol

Untitled from À La Recherche Du Shoe Perdu © Andy Warhol c.1955

3. The series consists of 16 individual shoes.

La Recherche du Shoe Perdu is a set of two print portfolios, with 16 individual shoes depicted across the series. Each shoe is unique in its colour, positioning, and the calligraphic inscription below it. Much like the portraits Warhol executed later in his career, each of the shoes has its own character and presence.

Untitled from À La Recherche Du Shoe Perdu by Andy Warhol

Untitled from À La Recherche Du Shoe Perdu © Andy Warhol c.1955