Printed in 1983, San Francisco Silverspot Butterfly (F. & S. II 298) is a signed screen print in colour on Lenox Museum Board by Andy Warhol. The print depicts the rare Silverspot Butterfly, whose name refers to the silver markings underneath its wings. The population of this butterfly species, native to San Francisco, is in decline due to its habitat being so close to the major cities in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Silverspot Butterflyis rendered in a range of vibrant colours, with bursts of yellow and green animating the print. Bright white gestural lines make the butterfly stand out against this deep coloured background, drawing attention to the beauty of this rare species.
San Francisco Silverspot Butterfly (F. & S. II 298) is part of the Endangered Species series, commissioned in 1983 by New York gallerists and environmental activists, Ronald and Frayda Feldman. This series is composed of 10 prints, each depicting a different endangered species. The purpose of the series was to raise awareness about the environment and the threat humanity is causing to wildlife. The series reflects Warhol’s personal interest in and concern for nature and the environment. The artist took part in campaigning for ecological issues such as beach erosion and, after Warhol’s death, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts donated 15 acres of Warhol’s protected beachfront in Montauk, New York, to the Nature Conservancy in 1992.
The print was made using Warhol’s signature screen printing technique. Unlike other prints in the series in which the animals are rendered against a plain coloured backdrop, the Silverspot Butterfly is superimposed on a picture of grass in an uncharacteristic purple. In doing this, Warhol transforms the Butterfly into a Pop Art icon, elevating the butterfly into the realm of fine art, and demanding people look at it and take notice of this endangered species.