Skulls by Andy Warhol

Skulls Andy Warhol

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Andy Warhol’s Skulls portfolios were mostly produced in 1976 and first exhibited in Cologne the following year. Warhol represented skulls in collages, prints, paintings, drawings, and even in self-portraits. The most recognisable images from this body of work are his still life prints, consisting of 10 screen prints based on photographs taken by Warhol’s assistant Robbie Cutrone. The photographs show a skull resting on a flat surface, taken from a slightly raised perspective. Under Warhol’s instruction, Cutrone adjusted the position of the light source in order to create a range of dramatic shadows over the skull’s features, casting the eye sockets into intense darkness. With the help of assistants in Warhol’s New York studio, the Factory, the artist was able to create multiple prints of the subject, varying in colour combinations and experimenting with the graphic possibilities of each repetition.

Warhol was one of the most influential figures in contemporary art, achieving notoriety through his interpretation of popular culture and consumerism in 20th century America. His work also calls into question the concept of the icon, most frequently explored in his representation of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali, and Elizabeth Taylor. However, the concept of the ‘iconic’ is explored on a more symbolic scale in his decision to depict the icon of the skull in an image which illustrates the multiplication of death. Warhol’s Skulls series has therefore been widely interpreted as an expression of the artist’s desire to evoke the ephemerality of the human condition.

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