Little Electric Chair, (Phthalo Blue)

by After Andy Warhol


DIMENSIONS: (Unframed) 22 x 28 inches / 55.9 x 71.16 cm
SIGNATURE: Stamped ‘undenied’ edition 1/40.
MEDIUM: Acrylic on canvas


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    One of the brighter colours used in the Electric Chair series, the use of Phthalo Blue in this painting lends playfulness to the chilling image. A colour used more frequently towards the end of Warhol’s career, it is almost infantile in its vibrancy. This is emphasised by the ‘silence’ sign at the far right of the composition, as if the chair’s invisible victim is nothing more than a child being punished or told off. The image’s harrowing quality is mocked by the use of Phthalo Blue.

    Addressing the reiteration of tragedy in the media, the Electric Chair series juxtaposes bright colours with a morbid subject. Warhol began producing these works in 1963, the same year as the State of New York’s last execution by electric chair. The source image was a press photograph published in January 1953 of the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York, a maximum security prison.

    Initially produced in 1963, Warhol returned to the series in 1971. However, later versions show the source image to be cropped, having an enlarging effect on the chair. Yet the uncropped versions, as here, retain the sense of space, evoking the loneliness that is represented by this isolated chair.

    Private Collection, United Kingdom

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    Warhol studied pictorial design at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, from 1945 to 1949.
    He moved to New York in 1949 and worked as a commercial artist.

    Warhol held his first one-man exhibition of drawings at the Hugo Gallery, New York, in 1952, and
    published six books of reproductions of his own drawings 1954-9. He was awarded the Art Directors’
    Club Medal for his shoe advertisements 1957.

    A leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art, his works explore the relationship between
    artistic expression, celebrity culture and advertisement that flourished by the 1960s. It was during this
    time that Warhol began to make paintings based on newspaper title pages, advertisements and other
    mass-produced images, and from 1962 to use silkscreen for the largely mechanical production by
    himself and assistants of series of easel paintings of ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’, ‘Coca-Cola Bottles’,
    portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, Jackie Kennedy, and later also car crashes,
    the electric chair, flowers and so on, sometimes with rows of repeated images.

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