Andy Warhol’s Sarah Bernhardt (F. & S. II.234) is a print from his Ten Portraits Of Jews Of The Twentieth Century series, depicting a portrait of the eponymous French stage actress. The graphic style is both characteristic of Warhol’s later screen printing style and reminiscent of his days as an illustrator.
The portrait shows Bernhardt’s beautiful, ethereal face beneath layered, tilted squares of red and blue colour fields, as though collaged onto the print. The result is decidedly geometric and produces a jarring and electric image. Much like other prints in this series, the bright colours bring the original photograph to life, transporting it into the context of the 1980s.
The Ten Portraits Of Jews Of The Twentieth Century series focuses on deceased subjects thus characterising the prints with the inescapable theme of mortality. The posthumous depictions of these famous faces appear as if behind a veneer of modernity, their person belonging to the past whilst their image endures in the present. Using a mixture of hand drawn lines, abstracted geometric shapes, bright colours, and the original photographic image, Warhol sustains the tension between representation and reality that points to the artificial surface image of fame in the 1980s.