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And Gentlemen

While the Ladies and Gentlemen print portfolio is Andy Warhol’s largest, it is the story—or rather, stories—behind this series that make it one of Warhol’s most fascinating. In this collection, Warhol portrays transgender women who he met in a popular Manhattan spot for New York’s Black and Latinx trans women and drag queens at the time. This series has courted both controversy and celebration. On the whole, this portfolio is admirably progressive for its day; Warhol used his platform wisely to platform a marginalised demographic. It has been achieved greater poignancy since, once the Warhol Foundation finally uncovered the identities of the sitters—including Marsha P. Johnson—in 2014, thus reinstating their individual legacies as a key part of the prints’ power.

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Meaning & Analysis

The Ladies and Gentlemen print portfolio is Warhol’s largest, depicting various portraits of transgender women he met in Manhattan.

In this collection, Warhol produces portraits of transgender women who he met in Manhattan’s Gilded Grape bar, a popular space where New York’s Black and Latinx trans women and drag queens came to spend time with one another, dance and meet new people. To make the portraits, Warhol took over 500 polaroid pictures of 14 different subjects.

Having 14 subjects for the collection meant that Warhol could get to know the sitters on a personal level. By getting to know the models in an intimate studio setting, Warhol was able to learn more about their identities which was a key element of the collection which explores themes of performance, glamour and personality.

The collection was commissioned by Italian art dealer Luciano Anselmino who paid $900,000 for 105 canvases. Anselmino came up with the title of the collection, Ladies and Gentlemen, which is often criticised for the way in which it seems to dramatise gender and performance instead of focussing on the lived experiences of the sitters, many of whom were very poor and faced extreme prejudice in their daily lives. Anselmino also wanted the portraits of New York’s drag queens to be ‘impersonal’ and ‘anonymous’ meaning that the names and identities of the models remained anonymous until 2014 when the Warhol Foundation published an official list of all the Ladies and Gentlemen paintings.

10 Facts About Andy Warhol's Ladies And Gentlemen

Ladies and Gentlemen (F. & S. II.129) by Andy Warhol

Ladies and Gentlemen (F. & S. II.129) © Andy Warhol 1975

1. The series depicts 14 trans women living in NYC in 1975.

Warhol's vivacious Ladies And Gentlemen series depicts well known individuals among the gay and trans scene in New York during the 1970s. Out of the 14 models depicted in the series, 13 of their identities are known: Marsha P. Johnson, Alphanso Panell, Iris, Wilhelmina Ross, Broadway, Easha McCleary, Helen/Harry Morales, Ivette, Kim, Lurdes, Michele Long, Monique and Vicki Peters.

Ladies And Gentlemen (F. & S. II.136) by Andy Warhol

Ladies And Gentlemen (F. & S. II.136) © Andy Warhol 1975

2. Warhol's lively colour palette mimics the artful makeup of drag.

Though the initial printed portraits in the series are monochromatic black and white, Warhol overlays colour to add dimension and vibrancy to his portraits. Not dissimilar to his Mick Jagger series, which was created in the same year, this colour draws attention to the models' features and the bold makeup of drag.

Ladies And Gentlemen (F. & S. II.135) by Andy Warhol

Ladies And Gentlemen (F. & S. II.135) © Andy Warhol 1975

3. Warhol only paid his sitters $50-100.

Despite being commissioned nearly $1 million for this series, Warhol only paid his models $50-100 for their extensive sittings. Marsha P. Johnson, one of the models in the series, commented on the irony of her portrait being sold for thousands of dollars while she struggled to pay rent.

Ladies And Gentlemen (F. & S. II.134) by Andy Warhol

Ladies And Gentlemen (F. & S. II.134) © Andy Warhol 1975