Christmas Tree c.1957

by Andy Warhol

P.O.A.

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 28.5 x 22.5 inches (72.4 x 57.1 cm)
SIGNATURE: With the Estate of Andy Warhol Stamp; with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts stamp and numbered ‘324.01’
MEDIUM: Ink on Strathmore Paper

 

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    Andy Warhol is one of the most prolific artists of his generation and the leader of the 1960’s Pop art movement, using both avant-garde and highly commercial sensibilities.

    Private collection, UK

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    Born in 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, his father recognised his son’s artistic talents early on and saved enough money to pay for his college education. Warhol studied Pictorial Design at the Carnegie Institute until he graduated in 1949. He then moved to New York to begin his career as a commercial magazine and ad illustrator. For the drawings he produced during this period, Warhol used his own technique of ‘blotted-line’ printmaking and often rubber stamps. He went on to win frequent awards for his uniquely whimsical and light-hearted style.

    In 1946 Warhol opened his own art studio, a large warehouse that became known as ‘The Factory’ and quickly became one of New York City’s premier cultural hotspots. Warhol had been infatuated with the world of fame and fashion in Hollywood since a young age, finding an escape from his ordinary working class life. After being commissioned to create a series of shoe illustrations by the art editor of Glamour fashion magazine early on, suddenly Warhol was in high demand as an illustrator for high-profile clients, including the Conde Nast organisation. This involvement with the fashion world during this time reflects his fascination with New York’s glamorous celebrities, a subject that would be important in his later work.

    In the late 1950’s Warhol began devoting more attention to painting and in 1961 debuted with the concept of ‘pop art’ creating the paintings of Campbell’s soup cans. Making an artwork of everyday consumer products created a major stir in the art world, bringing the artist into the national spotlight for the first time. Following on from this he began his series of portraits of celebrities, such as Elizabeth Taylor and Elvis Presley. Then in 1962 with the film star, Marilyn Monroe’s death, Warhol immediately started making portraits of the actress, arguably becoming one of his most iconic works. He used photographic silkscreen printing to create his celebrity portraits. This meant he could directly reproduce images already in the public eye, such as publicity shots or tabloid photographs. The technique also allowed him to easily produce multiple versions and variations of the prints, changing the nature of art once more. However Warhol understood the superficial nature of celebrity in American society. Images of public figures are created by marketing companies to make money, but in reality say little about the person behind the mask.

    In 1968 Andy Warhol was shot and badly injured by the radical American feminist Valerie Solanas. This made him even more fascinated by death as a theme within his art. Warhol is now an American cultural icon, and images of him are as famous as the art he created.

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