Society Portraits: Andy Warhol
Andy didn’t care and he approached the portraits like he did everything else – with diligence, creativity and a fair amount of greed. Clients were encouraged to commission additional panels of the same portrait in different colors, and those who didn’t were considered “cheap”.
In 1970 Andy Warhol was already telling reporters that he was “just a travelling society painter” and calling his commissioning clients jokingly “victims’. At that time, most of the New York art world was infatuated with Conceptual Art and leftwing causes reacting to Andy’s commissioned portrait work with outrage and jealousy. Andy didn’t care and he approached the portraits like he did everything else – with diligence, creativity and a fair amount of greed. Clients were encouraged to commission additional panels of the same portrait in different colors, and those who didn’t were considered “cheap”. The champion was Colorado businessman John Powers who had Andy do twenty-four panels of his Japanese wife Kimiko in a kimono.
Andy did his first commissioned portrait in 1963, of Ethel Scull, the wife of the New York taxi tycoon and Pop Art Collector Robert Scull. But it wasn’t until 1967 that commissioned portraits became a significant part of his artistic output. Almost all of Andy’s portraits began with a Polaroid. The Polaroid would be blown-up into a negative, which Andy used to trace the subject’s features on the canvas. He would then color in with acrylic paint and convert the negative into a silkscreen, which was used to print the photographic image in ink over the painted canvas. Andy’s earliest portraits were almost minimalist in style evolving into abstract expressionist in the early ‘70s... Andy Warhol is now hailed for having revived a dead art form.
When asked why he always wanted them to have the same size he would answer: “They all have to be, so they’ll all fit together and make one big painting called ‘Portrait of Society’. That’s a good idea isn’t it? Maybe the Metropolitan Museum would want it someday,**
Next to Polaroids and paintings we will also show drawings. Andy was mischievous and liked to make people think he could not draw but this was not true. Andy Warhol was a master of the blotted line technique. Most people took Andy’s quote about wanting to be a machine with minimal human contact with his paintings literally. This was one of many provocative conceptual thoughts he tossed out to see how people would react. Probably the first time Andy used one of his drawings, as an element of a complete artwork in another medium, is the Vote McGovers and the Mao print series, both from 1972… **
Andy WarholTruman Capote, 1979Unique Screenprint on off-white laid paper102 x 117 cm
40 2/16 x 46 1/16 in
Framing Dimensions: 134 x 152 cm
Andy WarholMarella & Gianni Agnelli, 1972Synthetic Polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas2 x 101.6 x 101.6 cm
0 12/16 x 40 x 40 in
2 parts 101,6 x 101,6 cm
Andy WarholJacques Bellini, 1983Peinture de résine synthétique et sérigraphie sur toile102 x 102 cm
40 2/16 x 40 2/16 in