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Cagney
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Cagney
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Cagney

US
NY, US
US

About the item

Created in the pivotal years of the early 1960s, Cagney stands at the heart of a legendary period of Warhol’s phenomenal career. Housed in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York since 1993, and recently discovered to have been included in Sam Wagstaff’s 1964 Wadsworth Atheneum exhibition entitled Black, White and Grey: Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, this is an indisputable representative of Warhol’s artistic vision. The present work is extraordinary for its rich inking and remarkable freshness. It is a unique silkscreen on paper and according to recent research it is one of just six located individual versions from the same source image (Jacqueline Brody, “Andy Warhol’s Cagney Prints," Print Quarterly, no. XXVI, 2009, p. 152)  Of the other five specific variants, one is housed in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; one is in the Froehlich Collection, Stuttgart; and another resides in The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Cagney represents a brilliant confluence of two fundamental themes of Warhol’s output, celebrity and death: concepts that of course occupied his entire career and led to intensely multifaceted and complex works in series that continue to resound with universal relevance. In Cagney, Warhol took a still photograph from James Cagney’s 1938 film Angels with Dirty Faces and transformed it into an image of popular culture itself, and the ever-important relationship between American society and its idols. In August of 1962 Warhol turned to the silkscreen in an effort to capture and copy popular imagery quickly. Though he is often quoted as saying “I want to be a machine” (G. R. Swenson, “What is Pop Art?: Answers from 8 Painters, Part 1,” Art News 62, November 1963, p. 26), Warhol always accepted the chance inherent to the silk-screening process. If too little ink was applied, or an old squeegee was used to create an image, painterly streaks of blank paper might be exposed. These seeming errors are more apparent in singular works on paper such as Cagney – in the present work such streaks appear directly above and below Cagney’s hip. Across the series these unintended "mistakes" appear in differing degrees of subtlety, making manifest the absolute individuality of each custom-created Cagney.\nDramatically cornered, the shadow of his challenger’s gun looming larger than life to his left, Cagney stands tall, raising his two guns in defiant fortitude. His own shadow is cast dramatically against the wall behind him, seeming at once to double his body and serve as a deathly specter. His facial expression is one of hostility and antagonism, the notorious look of an American gangster of the silver screen. Warhol shows Cagney in the essence of his celebrity, when he was lauded as an on-screen tough guy and a major star of the Warner Brothers studio. Much like Warhol in the early 1960s, Cagney had solidified his fame by 1938 in the "torn from the headlines" gangster movies that audiences anticipated from his studio during the Depression years of the 1930s. Angels with Dirty Faces was the first film that garnered Cagney an Academy Award nomination, an honor that contributed to his being ranked eighth among the American Film Institute’s “50 Greatest American Screen Legends” in 1999. There is no doubt, therefore, as to why Warhol chose to depict Cagney, for the focus of his signature silkscreens was leveled at subjects he brilliantly perceived as the most important concerns of day-to-day contemporary life.\nAs Rainer Crone explained in 1970, Warhol was interested in movie stars above all else because they were “people who could justifiably be seen as the nearest thing to representatives of mass culture.” (Rainer Crone, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970, p. 22) The present work, though taken from a film that pre-dates its creation by about twenty-five years, definitively conveys the enduring mass cultural fascination with the powerful and charismatic leading man. Notoriety and fame go hand in hand in popular culture, an impulse that Warhol’s work taps into again and again. Cagney enters into a vast lineage of representations of formidable and intriguing male figures. From the serial silkscreen depictions of Troy Donahue (1962), to Double Elvis (1963), and Thirteen Most Wanted Men (1964), Warhol repeatedly focused on the role of the male icon in popular culture. Unlike the various permutations of Liz and Marilyn, in which only the faces of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe are shown, derived from press or promotion photographs, the men are most often depicted both in character and in action.\nCagney, like Elvis in Double Elvis, is himself but through the guise of his character. The convergence of real and dramatic self that Warhol displays – we are at odds to differentiate Cagney from his gangster character – is deeply entrenched in the tendencies of consumer culture, where celebrities become inseparable from the roles they play. Thirteen Most Wanted Men, an installation Warhol created for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, was comprised of the enlarged mug shots of the NYPD’s thirteen most wanted men. Famously censored, and eventually painted over in reflective silver paint, Thirteen Most Wanted Men pointed to some of the same themes at work in Cagney. Both Cagney’s character, Rocky Sullivan, and the men on the NYPD’s most wanted list are worthy of Warhol’s representation because of their notoriety and, consequently, their fame.\nWith devastating immediacy and efficiency, the present work seduces our view with a stunning aesthetic and confronts our experience with a sophisticated array of thematic content. Cropped from the film-still used to create a silkscreen on canvas version of the same scene, the present Cagney hones in on the most affecting visual aspects of the larger image. In the painted Cagney, the full body of Rocky Sullivan’s aggressor is present. Here, the disembodied gun and forearm, menacingly extending out from the left edge of the frame, takes on a surreal quality while simultaneously allowing us to focus completely on Cagney. Alone in the frame, threatened yet resilient, he becomes an icon. Death and celebrity, the most profusely explored themes in Warhol’s oeuvre, are at hand in Cagney in two powerful ways. Thematically, the story of Rocky Sullivan is one of notoriety and the perpetual threat of danger and death. Compositionally, Warhol has divided his image in half, giving equal prominence to the agent of death and the icon of celebrity. They confront and challenge each other, as if to determine the more commanding cultural force. The resulting image becomes larger and more significant than its source, and exists as a work that is essentially American and essentially Warhol.\nSigned and dated 62 (possibly 63) on the reverse
US
NY, US
US

medium

Unique silkscreen print on paper

creator

Andy Warhol

condition

This work is in excellent condition. The sheet is mounted to ragboard at intervals to the top edge with clear mounting corners at the lower corners. The sheet is framed in a wood frame, painted dark gray, under Plexiglas with a wide float. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

29 7/8 x 39 7/8 in. 76.1 x 101.3 cm.

exhibition

Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, Black, White and Grey: Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, January - February 1964 New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Master Prints from the Collection, May - August 1994 New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Adding it Up: Print Acquisitions 1970 - 1995, May - September 1995 New York, The Museum of Modern Art, The Maximal Sixties: Pop, Op, Figuration from the Drawing Collection, January - May 1997 New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Pop Impressions Europe/USA: Prints and Multiples from The Museum of Modern Art, February - May 1999, p. 41, illustrated in color and frontispiece

literature

Frayda Feldman and Jörg Schellmann, Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1987, 4th Edition revised and expanded by Frayda Feldman and Claudia Defendi, New York, 2003, cat. no. I.1, p. 46 Jacqueline Brody, "Andy Warhol’s Cagney Prints," Print Quarterly, June 2009, no. XXVI, no. 2, fig. no. 114, p. 145, illustrated (installation view with fashion models at the Wadsworth Atheneum from the Hartford Courant, February 9, 1964), fig. no. 118, p. 148, illustrated and fig. no. 120, p. 149, illustration of the artist's signature on the reverse of the present work

provenance

Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (LC#AW G-29) Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1993

signedDate

Signed and dated 62 (possibly 63) on the reverse

consignmentDesignation

Property from The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Sold to benefit the Acquisitions Fund

creator_nationality_dates

1928 - 1987


*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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