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Artists Andy Warhol Art Works

Andy Warhol

American Painter, Draftsman, Filmmaker, and Printmaker

Movements: Pop Art, Video Art, Postmodernism

Born: August 6, 1928 - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Died: February 22, 1987 - New York, New York

Important Art by Andy Warhol

The below artworks are the most important by Andy Warhol - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.


Artwork Images

Campbell's Soup Cans (1962)

Artwork description & Analysis: By the 1960s, the New York art world was in a rut as Abstract Expressionism’s explosion of the 1940s and '50s had grown stale. Warhol was one of the artists hungry to reintroduce imagery to his work. The gallery owner and interior designer Muriel Latow presented Warhol with the idea of painting soup cans, when she suggested to him that he should paint objects that people use every day. (It is rumoured that Warhol ate the soup for lunch on a daily basis).

Because Warhol was already an extremely successful consumer ad designer, he used the techniques of his trade to create an image that was both easily recognizable and visually stimulating. He was well versed in the concepts of the advertising industry, which was currently invading the American psyche with its promise of happiness through abundant consumerism. He mirrored this by painting soup cans on thirty-two canvases aligned on a wall to denote the experience of being in a well-lit supermarket. With this installation, Warhol became credited with envisioning a new type of art that glorified (and also criticized) the nation’s impetus toward consumption.

Warhol would go on to say about his ethos of putting ordinary items front and center, "I just paint things I always thought were beautiful, things you use every day and never think about."

Synthetic polymer paint on thirty-two canvases - The Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York


Artwork Images

Coca-Cola (3) (1962)

Artwork description & Analysis: Warhol used universal imagery that was instantly recognizable and loved by the public, allowing him to connect to society in very visceral ways opposite the intellectualism necessary for understanding prior fields such as Abstract Expressionism. A famous example of this is his hand painted Coca-Cola bottle, a human-scale portrait of the Popular soft drink in dramatic black and white. The beverage represented a cool aesthetic with its familiar curves and promise of refreshment and inclusion within the lexicon of contemporary culture.

It was also a symbol of equalization reflected as such in Warhol’s statement: "What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola, too. A coke is a coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it."

On the flip side, the Coca-Cola bottle can be seen as a sign of modern mass-consumerism as one of the most recognizable brands in the world, a by-product of the corporatization of lifestyle.

Casein on cotton - Private Collection


Artwork Images

Gold Marilyn Monroe (1962)

Artwork description & Analysis: After her sudden death from an overdose of sleeping pills in August 1962, superstar Marilyn Monroe's tragic life and unforgettable career became a worldwide obsession. Fame-infatuated Warhol obtained one of the black-and-white publicity photos from her 1953 film Niagara and used it to create several series of similar images, discernible only in their color changes. This repetition of images remarked upon the way Marilyn’s face had been, and would continue to be, printed ad infinitum in newspapers and magazines, elevating her to icon status. Warhol’s commentary analyzed the way we become numb to the individual person behind the celebrity façade when inundated by imagery meant to represent said person. It also commented upon the way media saturation dulls our senses, creating dissociation between events and ourselves when fed the same visuals and messages over and over again.

In the Gold Marilyn Monroe, Warhol uses the commanding presence of a gold colored background to represent her legendary status within the communal psyche as one of the highest material value. This background is reminiscent of Byzantine religious icons that are the central focus in Orthodox faiths to this day. Only instead of a god, we are looking at an image (that becomes a bit garish upon closer inspection) of a woman who rose to fame as a national sex symbol and died via horrible tragedy. Warhol subtly comments on our society, and its glorification of celebrities to the level of the divine. Here again the Pop artist uses common objects and images to make very pointed insights into values and surroundings of his contemporaries.

Silkscreen - Museum of Modern Art, New York



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Artwork Images

Sleep (1963)

Artwork description & Analysis: In the early 60s, during a period of immense creativity, Warhol continued to challenge the status quo through film. By creating performative versions of the banalities of life, Warhol evolved his love of the mundane and ordinary as muses in an entirely new medium. Sleep is one of the artist's earliest films and his first foray into durational film, a style focused on presenting work culled in "real time" that became one of his signatures. This six-hour movie is a detailed exploration of Warhol’s lover at the time, John Giorno, sleeping. In it, we see a strip of a naked body in every scene. Although this seems to be a series of continuous images, it is actually six one hundred foot rolls of film layered and spliced together, played on repeat. Repetition was at the heart of Warhol's oeuvre.

Throughout his career Warhol made over 650 films spanning a wide range of subjects. His films were lauded by the art world, and their influence is seen in performance art and experimental filmmaking to this day. For example, in 2013 the actress Tilda Swinton participated in an installation where she slept in a glass box at MoMA for an extended period of time. Writer, actress, and director Lena Dunham recently expressed her desire to remake Warhol's Sleep shot for shot, only with herself as subject.

The films Empire and Eat followed Sleep in Warhol’s duration canon. Empire chronicles eight hours of the Empire State Building at dusk and Eat is a 45-minute long look at a man eating a mushroom. Warhol's themes were as expansive as his filmography. He even delved into more explicit areas such as homosexuality and gay culture. In Blowjob we find a continuous shot of DeVeren Bookwalter's face while he receives oral sex from filmmaker Willard Maas. Lonesome Cowboys cheekily morphs the Western genre into a work of raunch. His films are widely recognized as Pop masterpieces, enshrined in film institutes and modern art archives across the world.

Black and White 16mm film - Museum of Modern Art, New York


Artwork Images

Orange Car Crash Fourteen Times (1963)

Artwork description & Analysis: Orange Car Crash is from the Death and Disaster series that consumed much of Warhol's attention during this period. He often used gruesome, graphic images stripped from daily newspapers, photo silk-screening them over and over again across his canvases. The repetition of the image would lead to its fragmentation and degradation, hinting at the way our senses dull when continually barraged by the same news repetitively. To see a devastatingly graphic photo once leaves the viewer distraught and shaken - but to see that photo reproduced over and over again makes the viewer unable to comprehend it any longer, diffusing initial shock and horror into simply another mass-marketed image.

There is an alternative way to view this and other works from Warhol's Death and Disaster series proposed by the Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight. The car crash shown is very similar to the photo of the Long Island car crash where Jackson Pollock died in 1956. Warhol might be reminding viewers that Abstract Expressionism (championed by Pollock) is now dead. Perhaps Warhol was attempting to provide very specific commentary on the elitism of the art world.

Similarly, the Electric Chair series bears a "Silence" sign at the back of the depicted electrocution room, which Warhol connects to John Cage's modernist work with the same name (and his 1961 book of essays). Even further, Warhol's Race Riot series is a response to the many popular abstract works that are each labelled Black Series from modern artists such as Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Ad Reinhardt, and Frank Stella.

Silkscreen print on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York


Artwork Images

Brillo Boxes (1964)

Artwork description & Analysis: With Brillo Boxes, Warhol presented the viewer with replicas of a commonly used product found in homes and supermarkets, again placing the everyday object into the spotlight. Using his signature silkscreen technique to print the pieces on plywood, Warhol then constructed three-dimensional boxes, identical in size that could be arranged in various ways within the gallery setting. At the time there were several noted artists working with the replication of imagery. Roy Lichtenstein’s famous series of Monet’s haystacks or cathedrals had debuted, showing the repeated use of an image, only distinguishable from one another by varying color schemes. But Warhol’s Brillo Boxes were all the same, signalling a nod to the democratic beauty in a mass-produced aesthetic. Warhol’s art making practices at this time largely took place in his self-termed "factory" thus challenging the connotations of artist versus manufacturer.

Brillo was made of steel wool, a product stereotypically used by housewives to keep cookware shining in their lovely American homes. To this, perhaps Warhol had a personal connection. He was originally from Pittsburgh, the city of steel and the commodity was credited for the city’s prosperity and later, its depression. Did Warhol like the product itself, think the store displays for the product ridiculous, or as a gay man, did he enjoy the contrast of steel and wool, in one friendly package?

Acrylic silkscreen on wood - Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California


Artwork Images

Mao (1973)

Artwork description & Analysis: Warhol combined paint and silkscreen in this image of Mao Zedong, a series created in direct reaction to President Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China. Warhol took the black and white image of Mao from his Little Red Book (Mao's famous communist publication), and created hundreds of different sized canvases of the totalitarian ruler. Some of these paintings are as large as 15 feet x 10 feet, a scale evoking the dominating nature of Mao's rule over China and the awesome cult of personality he wielded. The monumental size also echoed the towering propagandistic representations that were being displayed throughout China during the Cultural Revolution. By creating hundreds of Mao images and lining them up on the wall, Warhol turned the man into a product, which anyone could own in their preferred size of small, medium or large. Mao became no different than a bottle of Coca-Cola, a consumerist choice on a grocery store shelf. This new Mao could be bought and sold as a piece of merchandise, a basic building block of capitalism, to which Communism was in emphatically opposed.

Warhol’s anti-Communism messages in this piece heralded personal expression and artistic freedom – the very ideas that Mao’s Cultural Revolution was against. He accentuated this interpretation through the use of graffiti-like splashes of color - where the red rouge and blue eye shadow literally 'de-face' Mao's image. This act of rebellion used its own heralded image against itself. He also used modernist art devices such as expressionistic brushstrokes around Mao's face as a further pun, symbolizing the enforcement of his own voice over that of the foreign leader’s.

Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas - The Art Institute of Chicago


Artwork Images

Oxidation Painting (1978)

Artwork description & Analysis: Created late in Warhol's career, Oxidation Painting is part of a series of works that was produced by the artist alone, or with a group of friends, made by urinating on a canvas of copper paint that was placed horizontally on the floor and then allowing the result to oxidize. The chemical reaction produced a surface reminiscent of works by Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, a metallic sheen with surprising depth of color and texture. Warhol put much thought and design into these works, and is quoted as saying, "[these paintings] had technique, too. If I asked someone to do an Oxidation painting, and they just wouldn't think about it, it would just be a mess. Then I did it myself - and it's just too much work - and you try to figure out a good design." The act of urination can be seen in itself as Warhol’s rebellious way of literally pissing on the art world’s elevated concepts of abstraction while simultaneously producing work within its canon.

Urine on metallic pigment in acrylic pigment on canvas - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Artwork Images

Rorschach (1984)

Artwork description & Analysis: Although Warhol's earliest work declared a dramatic break with Abstract Expressionism, he remained interested in abstraction throughout his career, and, in 1984, focused his ideas into a large series of Rorschach paintings. The so-called Rorschach test, devised by the Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach, inspired them. The test requires patients to divulge images personally seen in a set of ten standardized ink blots; in this way Rorschach believed we might gain access to unconscious thoughts. Warhol believed that abstract painting functioned in a similar way: instead of artists being able to communicate thoughts through abstract form, as many believed, he thought that viewers' simply projected their own ideas on to the pictures. His Rorschach pictures were therefore a kind of parody of abstract painting: mirrors into the viewer's own thoughts, resembling everything from genitalia or wallpaper designs.

Synthetic polymer paint on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York


Artwork Images

General Electric with Waiter (1984)

Artwork description & Analysis: It was at the suggestion of art dealer Bruno Bischofsberger that Warhol began collaborating on paintings with other artists. This led to the creation of works with the Italian Francesco Clemente, the much younger, Haitian-American painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, and later, Keith Haring.

Warhol's reputation was flagging in the early 1980s, and he had painted little since the 1960s, but his collaboration with Basquiat, which spanned two years between 1984-5, energized him and placed him amidst a young and more fashionable generation. Warhol’s fondness of Basquiat veered into a supportive mentorship role; he recognized the exuberance and street energy in the young artist as something fresh and new and even invested in some of the artist’s early paintings. General Electric with Waiter is typical of the pictures the pair produced together: Warhol contributed enlarged headlines, brand names and fragments of advertisements; Basquiat added his expressive graffiti. The success of the series rested on the cartoon qualities inherent in both Pop art and graffiti.

Acrylic and oil on canvas - Collection unknown


Artwork Images

Self-Portrait (1986)

Artwork description & Analysis: By the time Warhol painted this seminal self-portrait he himself had reached the very iconic status that his earlier portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Jackie O winked at. His metamorphosis from nerdy, shy, balding designer to art world star in his signature black turtleneck and shocking white wig is arguably one of his greatest works of art. This piece can be seen as an artist’s reconciliation with his own impending mortality, one which would not go by unrecognized as he places himself on the canvas, cementing his own place within very halls of vanitas his work remarked upon throughout his career.

In this particular work, the focus is on Warhol's head and wig (one of dozens he wore over the years). By using repetitive images, each slightly different to the next, and then overlapping the images, Warhol produces the illusion of movement. He becomes an all knowing and floating spectral presence, accentuated by the dramatic use of shadow and light.

Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas - National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.


Artwork Images

The Last Supper (1986)

Artwork description & Analysis: Behind Warhol's silver wig and black glasses (of Campbells Soup, Marilyn, and drug/sex film fame) was a devout Catholic who went to mass and volunteered at homeless shelters regularly. Warhol's mother was a very religious woman who instilled in him a connection to the church.

Warhol's religiosity is most exemplified by the late works that he created based on Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper (1495–1498). Warhol based these works on a black and white photograph of a popular nineteenth century engraving and ended up producing over a hundred drawings, paintings, and silkscreens of the Renaissance masterpiece. From superimposing brand names over the faces of the apostles, to cutting up the unity of the scene, Warhol honoured the original painting while adding it into his business enterprise and creative aesthetic. Nothing was sacred from the appropriation opportunities of Pop.

Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas - The Brant Foundation, Greenwich, Connecticut

Related Art and Artists


Artwork Images

Fountain (1917)

Artist: Marcel Duchamp

Artwork description & Analysis: The most notorious of the readymades, Fountain was submitted to the 1917 Society of Independent Artists under the pseudonym R. Mutt. The initial R stood for Richard, French slang for "moneybags" whereas Mutt referred to JL Mott Ironworks, the New York-based company, which manufactured the porcelain urinal. After the work had been rejected by the Society on the grounds that it was immoral, critics who championed it disputed this claim, arguing that an object was invested with new significance when selected by an artist for display. Testing the limits of what constitutes a work of art, Fountain staked new grounds. What started off as an elaborate prank designed to poke fun at American avant-garde art, proved to be one of most influential artworks of the 20th century.

Urinal - Philadelphia Museum of Art


Artwork Images

Skyway (1964)

Artist: Robert Rauschenberg

Artwork description & Analysis: While Rauschenberg was no stranger to collaged found imagery, the silkscreen technique reinvigorated his artistic practice in the early 1960s. After Andy Warhol introduced him to the photo-silkscreen technique. Rauschenberg created a series of silkscreen paintings that allowed for an open-ended association of meanings through his appropriation and arrangement of mass media imagery. In Skyway, Rauschenberg wanted to communicate the frenetic pace of American culture encapsulated in the early half of the decade, particularly as represented on television and in magazines. He stated, "I was bombarded with television sets and magazines, by the excess of the world. I thought an honest work should incorporate all of those elements." He created the work in the year following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Kennedy was a potent symbol for change, even though he was struck down only halfway through his first term as president. The image of Kennedy appears twice in the upper half of the painting surrounded by images that illustrate the ideals of American progress in the second half of the twentieth century including an astronaut, the bald eagle, and a large, mechanical crane surrounded by a demolished building. The lower half of the canvas contains a repeated image of Venus at Her Toilet (1608) by Peter Paul Rubens. The mirror within the painting expands the image into the viewer's space, mirroring the world around them as well as the world around Rauschenberg when he created the work. While the appropriated images can be read as politically and socially laden, Rauschenberg claimed he aimed to encapsulate the contemporary climate rather than comment on it, using "simple images" to "neutralize the calamities that were going on in the outside world."

Oil and silkscreen on canvas - Dallas Museum of Art


Artwork Images

Painted Bronze (ale cans) (1960)

Artist: Jasper Johns

Artwork description & Analysis: In this bronze sculpture, Johns intentionally blurs the line between the actual object and its artistic recreation, wherein the handcrafted appearance of the Ballantine Ale cans is only apparent after close inspection. He fashioned the sculpture in response to Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning's boast about art dealer Leo Castelli, "you could give [him] two beer cans and he could sell them." Johns accepted the challenge implicit in De Kooning's statement, casting in bronze two cans of his beer of choice, Ballantine Ale, which Leo Castelli promptly sold. The original beer cans were a deep brass-colored metal, which was ideal for casting in bronze to achieve an effective trompe l'oeil effect. However, in contrast to the authentic appearance of the cast cans, he allowed his brushstrokes to remain visible in the painted labels, creating an imperfection visible only upon careful observation.

Johns cast each can and the base separately and imprinted his thumb in the base as the autographic mark of the artist's hand, ensuring that the work is handmade. Johns cast one can with an open top and painted the Ballantine insignia and the word Florida on its top. The other can is unopened, unmarked, and solidly impenetrable. Some critics read the contrast between the cans as a metaphor for the relationship between Johns and Rauschenberg - an illustration of the differences and the growing space between them. In this reading, the open can serves as a signifier for the gregarious and popular Rauschenberg who began spending much of his time in his Florida studio in 1959, while the closed one stands for Johns and his quiet, impenetrable public facade. Other critics read a narrative of everyday life into the difference between the two cans - that everyone lives their lives between the after, or what has already happened embodied by the opened can, and the before, or what has yet to transpire in the closed can. Despite some clues, like the thumbprint, Johns left the final interpretation of the sculpture open to the viewer's discretion. His foray into representing mass-produced goods within the realm of fine art paved the way for Pop art.

Oil on bronze - Museum Ludwig Koln

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Marcel Duchamp
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Robert Rauschenberg
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