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La
Recherche du Shoe Perdu

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Critical Review

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’.