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Meaning & Analysis

Warhol’s Moonwalk prints from 1987, show the artist turning one of the 20th century’s most historic events into a Pop Art masterpiece TakingNeil Armstrong’s photograph of Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon, Warhol, for the very first time, turns this historic event into a Pop Art masterpiece. Though one might expect this work to have been done at the time of the moon landings in 1969, the prints were actually made in 1987, just a few months before Warhol’s death. It seems as though this subject appeared to Warhol to be important only after the fact, almost two decades later, when he had reached maturity in his career. And while it depicts a profound moment in the history of humanity Warhol adds his playful spin on it, tinting the iconic white astronaut suit with tones of pink in Moonwalk 405 and giving the surface of the moon a toxic green covering in Moonwalk Trial Proof.

The prints were intended to be part of a larger series titled TV which would include other key moments from America’s history such as a still of Martin Luther King Jr giving his famous ‘I have a Dream’ speech and the Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. However, Warhol’s untimely death from surgery complications meant that Moonwalk is the only print that was completed, making this an extremely sought after work in his oeuvre.

Moonwalk demonstrates Warhol's unfailing talent for spotting iconic images, and adds his own unique touch, drawing over the original image as well as overlaying it with bright blocks of colour that make it unmistakably a work of Pop Art. Though it captures a specific moment in time, the work is also a timeless classic that will continue to resonate with collectors today.

Since the early ’60s Warhol had been taking iconic images and making them his own. From his earliest portraits of Marilyn Monroe – her face tightly cropped from a publicity shot – he had been playing with notions of fame, appropriation and repetition through the medium of the screen print. Traditionally associated with the world of commercial printing, he was attracted to the large edition sizes that screen printing afforded and the flatness of the finished work’s surface. Warhol embraced the medium to such an extent that it has now become almost synonymous with his name. He enjoyed the effects he could achieve by overlaying colours and playing with the registration. He even described the method as “quick and chancy … you get the same image, slightly different each time.” By creating large numbers of prints, Warhol was ensuring that his work remained accessible to a wide audience, rejecting the snobbery of earlier art movements who put the unique canvas and the artist’s mark above all. Working from his knowingly named studio, the Factory, he resolved to print in large numbers, echoing the media culture from which he pulled his images and remarking that “repetition adds up to reputation.”

10 Facts About Andy Warhol's Moonwalk

Moonwalk (F. & S. II.404) by Andy Warhol

Moonwalk (F. & S. II.404) © Andy Warhol, 1987

1. Moonwalk depicts a profound moment in human history.

Warhol created the Moonwalk series to depict the Apollo 11 mission of 1969, when man landed on the moon for the first time.

Moonwalk (F. & S. II.405) by Andy Warhol

Moonwalk (F. & S. II.405) © Andy Warhol, 1987

2. This series is produced from an original photograph.

For this portfolio, Warhol turns Neil Armstrong’s photograph of Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon into a Pop Art masterpiece. Warhol adds colour and highlights to the original image in order to transform the original photograph.

The Shadow (unique) by Andy Warhol

The Shadow (unique) © Andy Warhol, 1981

3. This series was produced in the last months of Warhol’s life.

Completed in 1987, Warhol died shortly after the Moonwalk suite was completed.

Marilyn (F. & S. II.21) by Andy Warhol

Marilyn (F. & S. II.21) © Andy Warhol, 1967