Printed in 1978, Gems (F. & S. II.86) is a signed screen print in colour by Andy Warhol on Strathmore Bristol paper. The print depicts a ruby rendered in unconventional colours, characteristic of Warhol’s Pop Art aesthetic. Warhol colours the ruby in turquoise with blue gestural lines and pink shadows, emblematic of the expressive style he adopted later on in his artistic career. The hand-drawn lines emphasise the ruby’s form and contrast with the more mechanical aesthetic of Warhol’s earlier work, such as the Campbell’s Soup series.
Gems (F. & S. II.86) is part of the Gems series, produced in 1978 towards the end of Warhol’s career. Composed of four screen prints depicting various precious gemstones, this series marks a departure from his renowned depictions of celebrity culture. Whereas Warhol was known for his prints of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, in this series, Warhol turns to inanimate objects, gems, that embody the beauty and glamour that are synonymous with the celebrity icons he was known for portraying. Warhol was fascinated with wealth, fame and celebrity culture and the gems in this series are intimately bound up with these interests.
This print of a ruby gem is one of the most symbolic in the series. Gems (F. & S. II.86) is significant because it resonates with Warhol’s love for actress Elizabeth Taylor who was known for her adoration of rubies. Warhol too loved these precious stones. He was a keen jewellery collector, and his impressive jewellery collection was discovered in his former home after his death in 1987.