Andy Warhol’s Liz Taylor (1964) screen prints and 1963 canvases sit comfortably in his portraiture hall of fame, which featured numerous beautiful Hollywood actresses and actors. Warhol’s ‘Liz’ offers an expression of the strange zeitgeist that saw celebrities idolized and their private lives obsessively observed.
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Why did Warhol paint Elizabeth Taylor?
Warhol’s Liz Taylor prints utterly embody his fixation with the cult of celebrity and its glamour - can you name a sitter who exudes it more? The Liz collection is part of a pantheon of female muses chosen by Warhol for their alluring tragic glamour and for their significance within popular culture. His paintings ofMarilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy have much in common with the artist's Death and Disaster series of the early 1960s. While they are paintings of iconic beauty; they are also paintings that respond to the public's fascination with suicide and death. It is important to note that Marilyn, Jackie and Liz were not painted from life but from publicity and media images.
The artist was fascinated by the figures whose private lives dominated the public domain; these were women whose image was consumed by the masses just like any other commodity in the commercial age of 1960s America. Warhol painted Taylor after her well-publicised illnesses and romantic affairs. Taylor's romance with Cleopatra co-star Richard Burton dominated the papers and it was well reported that she had been near to death after suffering with a rare strain of pneumonia in 1961. During this time, as well as receiving an Oscar for best actress at the Academy Awards, Taylor was also the first actress to be paid over $1 million USD for a film. Warhol was fascinated by the mythology that built around the star. Liz is an image of glamour, but not of perfection. Containing both light and shade, the portrait with its painted-on smile, captures something of the screen idol's public image; endlessly alluring, compellingly flawed and vividly striking.
Warhol and Taylor became friends later in his career in the 1970s. The actress famously championed the gay community and was a fearless AIDS activist. Warhol once quipped: 'It would be very glamorous to be reincarnated as a great big ring on Liz Taylor's finger.'
Liz © Andy Warhol, 1964
Taylor was at the height of her career by 1963, and so this meant that she was the perfect subject for Warhol at the time.
Love (F. & S. II.312) © Andy Warhol, 1983
Taylor's romance with Cleopatra co-star Richard Burton dominated the papers and it was well reported that she had been near to death after suffering with a rare strain of pneumonia in 1961.
Flash November 22 (F. & S. II.42) © Andy Warhol, 1968
Warhol’s portrait of Liz Taylor precedes his portraits of Marilyn Monroe that share these intertwining themes of death and celebrity.
Marilyn (F. & S. II.21) © Andy Warhol, 1967