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Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
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Andy Warhol (1928-1987)\nSelf-Portrait\nacrylic and silkscreen inks on canvas\n22½ x 22½in. (55.9 x 55.9cm.)\nPainted in 1966
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notes

‘The most well-known of the three versions he produced during the 1960s and, with his self-portrait of 1986, one of the most representative and iconic images of the artist’ (G. Frei and N. Printz (ed.), The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Paintings and Sculptures: 1964-1969, vol. 2B, London 2004, p. 227).

‘The new series of self-portraits was based on a photograph of himself in which he gazes pensively at the camera, holding a couple of fingers over his lips. They marked a new development in his portraiture with increased emphasis on garish, nonnatural colour and avoidance of flesh tones... The bold, jarring colours called attention to this face while simultaneously cancelling out most of his recognisable features. The self-portraits offered no detailed information about either his physiognomy or his psychological state; instead, they present him as a detached, shadowy, and elusive voyeur. They exemplified his ability to manipulate his public image, one of the recurring themes of his art. There he was... larger than life, yet often so abstract as to be difficult to recognise. The lurid, arbitrary hues suggest a chameleon personality – or a mutating persona – that assumes the coloration of its background. Andy appeared, in fact, to be hiding behind a camouflage of brilliant colour’ (D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1995, p. 250).

’I’d prefer to remain a mystery, I never like to give my background, and anyway, I make it all up different every time I’m asked. It’s not just that it’s part of my image not to tell everything, it’s just that I forget what I said the day before and I have to make it all up over again. I don’t think I have an image, favourable or unfavourable’ (A. Warhol, quoted in G. Berg, ’Andy Warhol: My True Story,’ 1966, in K. Goldsmith (ed.), I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews: 1962-1987, New York 2004, p. 87).

‘I paint pictures of myself to remind myself that I’m still around’ (A. Warhol quoted in V. Bockris, The Life and Death of Andy Warhol, London 1989, p. 480).

One of the artist’s most enigmatic and memorable canvases, Andy Warhol’s 1966 Self-Portrait has been described in the catalogue raisonné of his work as ‘the most well-known of the three versions he produced during the 1960s and, with his self-portrait of 1986, one of the most representative and iconic images of the artist’ (G. Frei and N. Printz (ed.), The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Paintings and Sculptures: 1964-1969, vol. 2B, London 2004, p. 227). Following two earlier series of portraits in which the artist depicted himself in dark sunglasses, hiding behind the upturned collar of his trench coat (late 1963), or staring nonchalantly out towards the viewer (1964), the 1966 series portrays Warhol as the risen star – a serious and seemingly confident figure, his face bathed in highly-keyed, saturated tonalities. Based on a photograph of himself, the work was created using three stencils: one outlining the ear, face and fingers, another following the contours of his hair and a third charting the silhouette of his turtleneck and shoulder. A work of exceptional formal and technical prowess, Self-Portrait was selected for the 1970 exhibition Andy Warhol at the Pasadena Art Museum, which subsequently travelled to major international institutions including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindoven, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Tate Gallery, London, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. With its vibrant, luxuriant palette, Self-Portrait is not only an iconic image within the artist’s oeuvre, placing the rising artist among his cast of celebrity subject matter, but also represents an outstanding contribution to the history of self-portraiture.

Leaning on the palm of his hand, his index and middle fingers extended on either side of his pursed lips, Warhol portrays himself in a moment of assured regard. The artist’s gaze engages the viewer with great attention, acknowledging as it beckons the voyeuristic exchange. The carefully fashioned image the artist constructed of himself marked an important departure from the earlier self-portraits. As the critic and Warhol scholar David Bourdon points out, this series was pivotal in establishing the maturity of the artist: ‘The new series of self-portraits was based on a photograph of himself in which he gazes pensively at the camera, holding a couple of fingers over his lips. They marked a new development in his portraiture with increased emphasis on garish, non-natural colour and avoidance of flesh tones... The bold, jarring colours called attention to this face while simultaneously cancelling out most of his recognisable features. The self-portraits offered no detailed information about either his physiognomy or his psychological state; instead, they present him as a detached, shadowy, and elusive voyeur. They exemplified his ability to manipulate his public image, one of the recurring themes of his art. There he was... larger than life, yet often so abstract as to be difficult to recognise. The lurid, arbitrary hues suggest a chameleon personality – or a mutating persona – that assumes the coloration of its background. Andy appeared, in fact, to be hiding behind a camouflage of brilliant colour’ (D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1995, p. 250).

Self-portraiture has long been a genre that artists have used in order to demand attention as a serious artist, displaying their credentials, and also to explore and express their own state of mind, a product of intense introspection as well as self-promotion. Warhol was doubtlessly influenced by the self-portraits of Rembrandt, one of the other great chroniclers of his own appearance who, like Warhol, created likenesses of himself that serve as milestones guiding the viewer through his life and career. Indeed, Warhol was looking at the entire history of self-portraiture, especially its increasing association with self-expression in the modern world. This was a development that is most perfectly encapsulated in the self-portraits of Vincent van Gogh, which have become canonical representations of the way that an artist can convey a state of mind. Similarly the pictures of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, for instance the celebrated painting Self-Portrait with Cigarette, 1895, convey some sense of the haunted persona, a sense of psychology. The self-analysis that these artists pioneered would be a gauntlet taken up by other artists throughout the Twentieth Century who increasingly used depictions of themselves combined with expressionistic brushwork to convey their state of mind. Warhol, aware of these associations, knew that looking at Self-Portrait, any viewer would see it in the context of the frankness of other twentieth-century examples of the genre by such artists as Egon Schiele, Gustav Courbet, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso or Francis Bacon.

Indeed, Self-Portrait is an intriguing refection of Warhol’s own image and of his recognition of his own status in the firmament of the avant-garde, as he continued down his trailblazing path dismantling and constructing the iconographies of the modern world. The emergence of the Self-Portraits marked a turning point for Warhol. Finally, amongst both the images of the rich and famous as well as the press photographs of death and disaster, Warhol had become an element in his own visual repertoire. By 1966, Warhol had arrived, and was now one of the stars in his own right. This was even truer in 1967, the year which lead him to the Cannes Film Festival and to release the Velvet Underground’s first album. He was an icon, a constant and glamorous figure on the art scene across the United States and the social scene in New York. He was the mercurial leading artist of the day, as well as an increasingly acclaimed filmmaker. Self-Portrait is as much about self-presentation—and self-celebration—as anything else. Here, he gazes out of the picture with an intense driven air. His pose tells of the mysterious thinker or the intellectual—wise but distantly so. This is a man who was single-handedly turning preconceptions upside down, a revolutionary, the pioneer of Pop. Now that he too was a recognized face, it was only fitting that he should have enshrined himself amongst his gods—Elvis, Marlon, Marilyn and Liz. Through the playful processes of detachment and the extreme control with which he sanctioned and controlled his own public image as his fame grew, Warhol paradoxically managed to achieve the desire he explained to Gretchen Berg the previous year: despite being increasingly in the public eye, ‘I’d prefer to remain a mystery, I never like to give my background, and anyway, I make it all up different every time I’m asked. It’s not just that it’s part of my image not to tell everything, it’s just that I forget what I said the day before and I have to make it all up over again. I don’t think I have an image, favourable or unfavourable’ (A. Warhol, quoted in G. Berg, ‘Andy Warhol: My True Story,’ 1966, in K. Goldsmith (ed.), I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews: 1962-1987, New York 2004, p. 87).

title

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

medium

Acrylic and silkscreen inks on canvas

creator

Andy Warhol

keywords

Andy Warhol , 1960s, Paintings, United States of America, Post War, portrait

exhibited

Pasadena, Pasadena Art Museum, Andy Warhol, 1970-1971, p. 94, no. 61. This exhibition later travelled to Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum (no. 129); Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (no. 48); London, Tate Gallery and New York, Whitney Museum of American Art.

Seattle, Seattle Art Museum, Andy Warhol: Portraits, 1976-1977. This exhibition later travelled to Denver, Denver Arts Museum.

Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Collects Art since 1940, 1986 (illustrated, p. 83).

department

POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART

dimensions

22½ x 22½in. (55.9 x 55.9cm.)

literature

R. Crone, Andy Warhol, New York 1970, p. 296, no. 231.

R. Crone, Das Bildnerische Werk Andy Warhols, Berlin 1976, no. 392.

G. Frei and N. Printz (eds.), The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Sculptures, 1964-1969, vol. 2B, New York 2004, p. 254, no. 1880, (illustrated in colour, p. 234).

provenance

Leo Castelli Gallery, New York.

Albert and Vera List, Greenwich (acquired in 1967).

Private collection, Philadelphia (by descent from the above).

Dominique Lévy Gallery, New York.

Private Collection, San Francisco (acquired from the above in 2003).

Anon. sale, Christie's New York, 15 May 2013, lot 31.

Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

special_notice

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*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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