Liz Taylor Andy Warhol
Find out more about Andy Warhol’s ‘Liz Taylor’ series, browse prints & editions for sale & view the works wanted by active buyers right now.
Pioneer of pop art Andy Warhol was fascinated by celebrity and stardom. Some of his most successful and enduring artworks capture the idols of American popular culture at the height of their fame. His portraits of Elizabeth Taylor entitled Liz, fall into this canon; depicting the actress in the artist’s signature graphic style and intense colour palette, they are both uniquely Warhol and archetypally Pop.
Warhol first painted Elizabeth Taylor in the early 1960s and went on to create over 50 portraits of the actress in various manifestations, including in her roles in films such as National Velvet and Cleopatra. However, it is the artist’s closely cropped Liz portraits created using a publicity photograph from her film Butterfield 8 that are considered among the artist’s most celebrated images. In addition to a number of original works on canvas, Warhol created an edition of offset lithographs entitled Liz. Created in 1964, there are an estimated 300 of these editioned works available on the market. Warhol used the mass media as source material and transformed it into high art. By reproducing the image in series, he furthered the concept of the democratisation of art and sought to replicate the appearance of commercial forms of production. These concepts were new, ground-breaking and characteristic of the development of pop art in America. The resulting image is powerful; the vivid non-naturalistic colours signal the glitz and excess of stardom and allude to the superficiality of fame, while the bold graphic composition exemplifies important early advances in the development of the artist’s signature printing process.
Warhol's focus on stardom in his work was remarkably prescient, foreshadowing a contemporary obsession with the cult of celebrity. The Liz series is part of a pantheon of female muses chosen by Warhol for their alluring tragic glamour and for their significance within popular culture. His paintings of Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy have much in common with the artist's Death and Disaster Series of the early 1960s. While they are paintings of iconic beauty; they are also paintings that respond to the public's fascination with suicide and death. It is important to note that Marilyn, Jackie and Liz, were not painted from life but from publicity and media images.
The artist was fascinated by the figures whose private lives dominated the public domain; these were women whose image was consumed by the masses just like any other commodity in the commercial age of 1960s America. Warhol painted Taylor after her well-publicised illnesses and romantic affairs. Taylor's romance with Cleopatra co-star Richard Burton dominated the papers and it was well reported that she had been near to death after suffering with a rare strain of pneumonia in 1961. During this time, as well as receiving an Oscar for best actress at the Academy Awards, Taylor was also the first actress to be paid over $1 USD for a film. Warhol was fascinated by the mythology that built around the star. Liz is an image of glamour, but not of perfection. Containing both light and shade, the portrait with its painted-on smile, captures something of the screen idol's public image; endlessly alluring, compellingly flawed and vividly striking.
Warhol and Taylor became friends later in his career in the 1970s. The actress famously championed the gay community and was a fearless AIDS activist. Warhol once quipped: "It would be very glamorous to be reincarnated as a great big ring on Liz Taylor's finger."
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