Andy Warhol – the American artist, designer, film director, and one of the founders of postmodern trends of pop-art – was born August 6, 1928, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, hailing from the family of immigrants. He studied commercial art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, graduating from it in 1948. In the same year, Warhol moved to New York, where he first worked as an illustrator for different magazines, including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, as well as designed greeting cards and posters. The graphic works in the field of advertising brought him his first major success, especially the drawings of shoes for the I. Miller company. In 1952, Warhol’s works were exhibited in New York, and in 1956, he received an honorary prize of the Club of Art Editors. In 1960, the artist created a design for the packaging of a cult product, Coca-Cola, which has somewhat defined the style of his future works. In particular, in the years 1960-1962, Warhol created a number of paintings of Campbell’s soup cans, which became his hallmark, making him one of the most recognizable artists of the XX century.
Since 1962, Warhol began to apply the technique of silkscreen printing. He bore the images directly on the canvas, using advertising stencils, film stills, and photos. His portraits of movie stars and show business celebrities (Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Elvis Presley), as well as the politicians (Mao Zedong and Vladimir Lenin), have become symbols of pop-art. In 1963, Warhol opened a studio named The Factory in the midtown Manhattan. At the same time, it was set up as a commercial enterprise, producing dozens of silkscreen paintings per day and about a thousand of works of art per year. It employed a team of workers that were mass-producing the portraits of celebrities. Thus, the works by Andy Warhol became a symbol of the commercial pop art and the American art culture of the XX century.
It is also possible to emphasize the significant contribution of Andy Warhol in the filmmaking and journalism. Throughout his life, the artist dedicated himself to the art of photography, its processing and mass distribution. Moreover, in parallel with the experiments in the sphere of amateur films, he acted as a sponsor of the first alternative rock band named The Velvet Underground, becoming a producer its several albums of this group and designing the covers for them. However, in the 1970s, Warhol returned to painting and created, in particular, more than two thousand portraits of Mao and a portrait of Lenin. In the 1980s, the artist became sated with the pop culture and focused on collecting jewelry, furniture, and other antiquities. In particular, he often decorated his house with the masterpieces of classical art. After his death, his collection was sold at Sotheby’s. Andy Warhol died in New York on February 22, 1987. The artist’s body was moved to Pittsburgh and buried on the territory of the Byzantine Rite Catholic Church. His property, which was estimated at a hundred million dollars, was bequeathed to the fund to help art organizations. Thus, even after his death, he continued to be an artist.
Campbell’s Soup Cans
Campbell's Soup Cans is one of the most iconic works of Andy Warhol, created by him in 1962. The picture is made up of thirty-two canvases, with each of them depicting a can of a condensed soup produced by Campbell Company. As a result, the complete canvas depicts all the varieties of the product offered by the company at the time. It is possible to note that the art style of Campbell’s Soup Cans resembles that of advertising booklets and billboards; however, the work is created through the use of hand-painting and hand-stamping techniques. As a result, it is clear that Warhol tried to replicate the uniformity and repetition that are common to the advertisement by reproducing similar images to the thirty-two canvases. The only variation is the label on the front of each can. By the end of 1962, Warhol started using silkscreen technique, which was commonly used in advertising, establishing an even stronger connection between his work and marketing.
The choice of a can of condensed soup as a central theme of a painting can make one question the competency of an artist, as well as the artistic value of his work. However, given the fact that Campbell's Soup Cans were created during the times when the pop-art movement was almost in its infancy, with each new bohemian masterpiece becoming a sensation, one can say that the Warhol’s decision was not surprising. Moreover, in the United States, the new style has primarily affected the experienced artists, with the most trivial and disposable objects that were often seen on billboards and on television becoming the center of attention. In this regard, the work of art can be interpreted in several ways. On the one hand, it is possible to establish the connection between it and the artist’s past. In particular, Warhol was born in a poor immigrant family, which makes it possible to assume that he was often forced to eat cheap canned soup. After growing up and absorbing the ideas of Neo-Dada (the direction in art and literature that recognizes the meaninglessness of existence), he tried to reflect his feelings in this painting. As a result, the picture became the essence of nullity – the cheapest food one can afford that accompanies a person throughout many years of its life.
On the other hand, it is possible to assume that the depiction of such trivial object as the soup can be interpreted in the following way. In his work, Warhol expressed the desire to reveal the essence of things and give everyone the opportunity to understand that even the simplest things that are seen on the daily basis can be as beautiful as the green hills and meadow flowers. Given the fact that Campbell's Soup Cans remain one of the most popular and iconic of his works, with many artists and critics trying to analyze it, one can say that Warhol has managed to reach his goal.
Marilyn Diptych is a silkscreen painting by Andy Warhol that was made in the style of pop-art. The artist started working on it a week after Marilyn Monroe’s death in August 1962. With the help of screen printing, Warhol painted fifty identical images of the actress on the canvas, using her famous photograph that was made on the set of Niagara as a basis. The work was completed in several months. Like many other works of pop-art, Marilyn Diptych is very expressive and unusual at the same time. The twenty-five images of Monroe that are located at its left side are very bright, utilizing such colors as orange, pink, blue, and yellow. On the other hand, the right half of the painting is black and white, with the images of an actress often being blurred, fuzzy, and pale. As a result, the facial features of Monroe are sometimes barely recognizable. Thus, there is a significant contrast between the two halves of the picture, with a clear border that splits it into two.
The use of such technique by Warhol can be interpreted in many ways, but the two of them are the most feasible of all. On the one hand, by dividing a picture into colorless and colorful halves, Warhol could have tried to associate them with equally contrasting life and death of Marilyn Monroe. At the same time, the line dividing the painting into the two equal parts, as well as the use of colors that are each other’s opposites (e.g. orange and blue, black and white), makes it possible to makes an assumption that it symbolizes the contrast between the screen image of an actress and her real self. On the one hand, Monroe was one of the most iconic performers of the time, a woman that was considered to be an ideal woman by men throughout the world. However, her bright smile could have been just a mask that served to hide her exhausted, hollowed self, which may be the reason for the artist to make some of Monroe’s faces in the right half of the painting barely recognizable. Given the fact that during her last years, she spent most of the time in her darkened bedroom, surviving on fast hypnotic pills and reducing the weight (hence the colorless, blurry right half of the painting), one can say that there were many problems in her personal life. In turn, this provided a sharp contrast with the image of a beauty smiling from the screen. Perhaps, Monroe was unable to handle such contradictions, which has eventually led to her death. In any case, Warhol has managed to create a memorable piece of art to commemorate the life and death of one of the most prominent actresses of the XX century.
The choice of Andy Warhol as a focus of the presented essay can be explained by the fact that he was a man that changed the contemporary art significantly. He was among the first to combine creativity and mass production, turning it into a consumer product. Moreover, Warhol was not afraid of experiments and crazy ideas. For many people, his works are abnormal, immoral, and uninteresting. However, the one who is not afraid to break the stereotypes and lay a new foundation is to remain in the memory of the future generations. Thanks to his innovative and revolutionary ideas, Warhol became a cult person in the history of art and one of the most extraordinary artists of his time. At present, the name of this master has become the true symbol of a trend that is denoted by the term pop-art, which makes his works a valuable material for the artistic analysis.