Considered to be a significant portrait of the eponymous sitter, Gertrude Stein (F. & S. II.227) is a print from Andy Warhol’s critical Ten Portraits Of Jews Of The Twentieth Century series (1980). Stein was an American novelist, poet and art collector and has a tremendous career within the Parisian avant-garde movement, credited with supporting the likes of Matisse and Picasso. This series transcends the realm of celebrity by depicting people of great accomplishment, although Warhol was still clearly enthralled by the mechanism of fame that characterised his sitters.
Representing a highlight and culmination of Warhol’s body of work, Gertrude Stein (F. & S. II.227) displays a subtlety and sophistication in the artist’s technical advancement of the screen printing method. Warhol uses colour-fields of layered geometric shapes to form the backdrop to this print, setting this against the faintly rendered photographic image and deliberately misaligned crayon-like outlines of Stein’s portrait.
Abstracting Stein’s familiar archival photograph, Warhol generates new depths of meaning to Stein’s portrait by using vivid, flattened colours, alluding to the notion of abstraction and turning the sitter into a Pop Art icon. Gertrude Stein (F. & S. 227) explores the paradoxes of surface and image, abstraction and naturalism, that are held in an aesthetically pleasing dialogue through Warhol’s unrivalled screen printing technique.