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Critical Review

Cologne Cathedral is a set of 4 screen prints with diamond dust on Lenox Museum Board, produced in 1985 marks an interesting shift in Warhol’s oeuvre. The collection was produced by Andy Warhol in 1985 and the prints each come in an edition size of 60.

In this collection, Warhol depicts the magnificent Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany. The cathedral is Germany's most visited landmark and averages 20,000 visitors a day. The cathedral, which dates back to 1248, is the tallest twin-spired church in the world, making it an impressive feat of Gothic architecture. The cathedral now houses the reliquary of the Three Kings and is seen as a symbol of the strength of Christianity in both medieval and modern Europe.

Warhol renders the cathedral from the same perspective in each print, however the depictions vary due to the colours used by Warhol and the amount of detail he adds through the use of colourful lines which he layers over paint. Cologne Cathedral (F. & S. II.364) is the most sombre print of the collection with the cathedral being rendered in black against a grey backdrop. The other prints  in the collection feature much brighter and more vibrant colours, with Cologne Cathedral standing out due to its wide range of colours, ranging from pink to yellow, red to turquoise.

Why is Cologne Cathedral so important?

The Cologne Cathedral collection marks an interesting turn in Warhol’s oeuvre. The artist is best known for his depictions of icons from popular culture. Warhol was fascinated by American pop culture and would often depict everyday consumer goods in his prints, elevating these mass-produced products into the realm of fine art. Warhol was also obsessed with fame and the glamour that accompanied it. Warhol produced many prints of famous figures such as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, as well as political figures such as John F. Kennedy and Chairman Mao. In this collection, however, Warhol turns to an iconic European landmark that carries a significant religious, historical and cultural significance. By rendering the cathedral in his signature Pop Art style, characterised by a use of bright and vibrant colours and an experimentation with lines, Warhol transformed the cathedral into a Pop Art icon that can be seen alongside his Campbell’s Soup Cans.

Warhol reproduces the images of the cathedral using the screen printing technique that has become closely associated with the artist's name. In doing so, Warhol simplifies the details of the cathedral and its impressive Gothic architecture. By reducing the cathedral to its form and abstracting it from its conventional context, Warhol draws attention to the general beauty of the structure and its inherent grandeur.

Throughout the collection, the addition of bright colours and lines demonstrates how colour can transform an image, redefine it and give it new meanings. Warhol reproduces the beauty of the cathedral from a contemporary perspective. His depiction of the building differs radically from the way it has been captured in many other artworks making this collection truly original.

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