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10 screenprints from 1983, Warhol’s Endangered Species portfolio was a project first commissioned by New York Gallerists and Environmental Activists. The series was intended to bring attention to the world’s endangered animals. It features the Bald Eagle, Black Rhinoceros, African Elephant, Orangutan, Grévy’s Zebra, Bighorn Ram, Giant Panda,Pine Barrens Tree Frog, San Francisco Silverspot Butterfly and the Siberian Tiger.
Warhol’s artwork refreshes the viewer’s perspective by bringing us into a new relationship with the object and its image. Supermarket products, news media, film stars and advertisements are all given the artist’s signature treatment: casting everyday subjects in kaleidoscopic colour and repeating images machine-like and in series. The artist’s Endangered Species is no different. The psychedelic luminous colours and energetic lines animate his subject. The threatened animals are represented in the same way as the artist’s film and TV stars: as cultural icons that are impossible to ignore.
Warhol understood the power of the image and his art. He donated a number of these works to raise funds and awareness. The artist was a lifelong lover of animals and nature. Nature and wildlife can be found throughout his work. His early illustrations featured cats and dogs, most notably in the children’s book Cats Name(d) Sam and One Blue Pussy created in collaboration with his mother Julia Warhola and published in 1954. Legend has it that the artist and his mother lived in a New York townhouse surrounded by cats that were all named Sam, apart from one called Hester. Warhol went on to own dogs and paint dog portraits. His love for animals can be seen in the way he photographed and painted these canine companions. Animals and nature appear in other later significant bodies of work, including Flowers and the Cow and Fish wallpaper pieces.