The fascinating story behind Andy Warhol's soup cans. Learn more behind the leading figure of pop art.
Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Can 1962
While Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans are the icons of the pop art world, it's certainly not his only famous art works. Here's a summary and meaning of Andy Warhol's most famous pieces of art:
Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, 1962
Andy Warhol, Eight Elvises, 1963
Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Mao Zedong
Andy Warhol was a popular figure amongst the Hollywood celebrities circle, wealthy art patrons and intellectuals of his time. He, with his assistants at The Factory, made numerous varieties of Marilyns: the icon of "glamorous women". The ever swapping colors placed great emphasis on her makeup. Her expression frozen in a fake smile for the camera. Warhol was fascinated with Monroe as the contemporary sex goddess, packaged for the public consumer. He related for her struggles with fame, to be taken seriously, and fits with depression.
Warhol had a knack for picking his subjects: Elvis, Mick Jagger, Jackie O, Jimmy Carter, Liz Taylor, JFK, Mao Zedong (Moa Tse Tung), Queen Elizabeth. Even Mickey Mouse and Superman has a place in Warhol's long list of portrait subjects. Warhol captured the idols of his time. Warhol's famous portrait of Michael Jackson was created at the height of Jackson's popularity, with his album Thriller.
Andy Warhol Cow Wallpaper (1960s - 1980s)
Warhol on the origin of the Cow theme, about art dealer Ivan Karp:
"Another time he said, 'Why don't you paint some cows, they're so wonderfully pastoral and such a durable image in the history of the arts.' (Ivan talked like this.) I don't know how 'pastoral' he expected me to make them, but when he saw the huge cow heads — bright pink on a bright yellow background — that I was going to have made into rolls of wallpaper, he was shocked. But after a moment he exploded with: 'They're super-pastoral! They're ridiculous! They're blazingly bright and vulgar!' I mean, he loved those cows and for my next show we papered all the walls in the gallery with them."
Perhaps his most famous sculpture, these Brillo Boxes were not exact replicas of the boxes that the manufactures made, but silkscreened ink of plywood replicas. The sculpture was part of a series of "grocery carton" works that included the cases of Heinz ketchup and Campbell's tomato juice.
Many viewer cannot tell the difference between the sculpture and the cardboard boxes they're based on. This deadpan presentation of a mundane supermarket stockroom can be read as a comment on the commercial framework behind the pristine art gallery and art museum.
Andy Warhol, Atomic Bomb 1965
Andy Warhol, Double Disaster: Silver Car Crash 1963
Silver Car Crash, Electric Chairs, Atomic Bombs
Warhol had a series of silkscreened paintings where he took print media images of death and disasters, including photographs of suicides, plane and car crashes, and tragedy-stricken celebrities.
Known for being the highest priced Warhol painting (sold for $105m [£65.5m] at auction in November 2013), this large piece spans across two adjacent canvases. The left canvas repeatedly shows black silk-screened images of a car crashed into a tree, over a silver background. The repeated image points to both the process of creation (a form of printmaking), but also a cinematic experience. Warhol, who also made a number of films himself, compared this image of a brutal crash to the silver end screen of a film, colliding "The end" with the experience of death.
In 1963, New York's Sing Sing State Penetentiary performed its last two executions by electric chair (capital punishment was banned in the United States from 1963-1997). He made several silk-screens of empty electric chairs made the same year.
These repetitive, violent images were often printed in various ways - various crops, colors, off-registered and double images. Warhol's obsession with replicas, according to him, were to “empty” it of meaning.
"I'm afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning." - Andy Warhol