Cats Named Sam Andy Warhol
Find out more about Andy Warhol’s ‘Cats Named Sam’ series, browse prints & editions for sale & view the works wanted by active buyers right now.
Though Andy Warhol is better known for his portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and Elvis, a large part of his oeuvre is also dedicated to cats, particularly through his series Cats Named Sam. Before making it as an artist Warhol worked as a freelance commercial and children’s book illustrator. He lived in an apartment on East 57th Street with his mother Julia Warhola and 25 cats who all shared the same name. In 1954 he published a children’s book called 25 Cats Name (sic) Sam and One Blue Pussy for which he produced 16 – not 25 despite what the title suggests – lithographs accompanied by his mother’s exquisite calligraphy. The original book is extremely rare but the prints have survived and are each unique, having been hand coloured by Warhol or his friends. These are some of the earliest works by Warhol on the market today and they offer a rare insight into his playful outlook and talent for colour.
The cats in the series vary from fuchsia pink – Sam 51 – to bright yellow – the most famous feline from the series, Sam 58 – to elegant brick red – Sam 65 – to the more traditional tabby of Sam 54, startlingly contrasted by the One Blue Pussy of the title, known here as Sam 68. With this rainbow menagerie Warhol appears to be testing the possibilities of combining the simple and elegant lines of his sketches with the bright blocks of colour that could be added after the process of making the lithograph. With works such as Sam 66 we can see how the colour is often laid over the lines to create an offset effect. Warhol would exploit this technique further when he turned his hand to screen printing.
As well as marking an important turning point in Warhol’s career, the series demonstrates the Pop artist’s excellent draughtsmanship and ingenious use of colour that would distinguish him as one of the true icons of 20th century art. Together with Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring he would revolutionise the art world, putting print over canvas, pop culture over traditional subject matter, bringing his work to a wider audience than just the art and fashion world elite.
For Warhol the multiple was everything; from his early forays into self-publishing to his later experiments with screen printing and filmmaking, he knew that “repetition adds us to reputation”. By producing large numbers of editions Warhol ensured his work was widely shared in a time before hashtags and selfies became the go-to ways of making a work of art into a viral sensation. Producing work from his New York studio – knowingly named the Factory – with the help of assistants Warhol was able to make his work for a range of collectors and today there is a healthy secondary market for these pieces which are still very much in demand. While the original picture book may be extremely hard to find, the prints which were made in editions of 190 – each signed by the artist – appear fairly regularly at auction. And though they encapsulate the beginning of Warhol’s career, these works are timeless classics, beloved by generation after generation of cat lovers and art lovers alike.
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