Galleri Burén, Stockholm
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1965
Since their inaugural exhibition at Andy Warhol’s first sell-out show at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1964, Warhol’s’ Flowers have become one of the most celebrated and iconic images of his career. Silk-screened images of hibiscus flowers appropriated from a magazine cutting have been blown up and drenched with vibrant Day-Glo hues and set against a background of rich undergrowth, transforming them not only into psychedelic indoor decoration but furthermore, into symbols of more profound meaning. Like his portraits of Marilyn and Elvis, the flowers are presented to us as pictorial representations of life’s fragility and of the transience of celebrity. Following the Death and Disaster series of 1962-3, the motif of four blossoming hibiscus flowers flourishing now, but soon to perish, serves as a metaphor for the brevity and unsustainability of celebrity and of life in general.
Between June and September 1964, Warhol's studio - the Factory - became a production line for Flower paintings of different sizes. By choosing to depict the disarmingly innocuous motif of flowers, Warhol was consciously and wilfully engaging with an established canon of still-life painting stretching back to bygone centuries: "With the Flowers, Andy was just trying a different subject matter. In a funny way, he was kind of repeating the history of art. It was like, now we're doing my Flower period! Like Monet's water lilies, Van Gogh's flowers, the genre." (Gerard Malanga cited in A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol, New York, 2003, p. 74) Warhol’s updated interpretation of this age-old motif, however, is consciously banal and synthetic: in the first instance he rejects the hierarchical compositions of the Dutch still-life tradition in favour of an overhead perspective which banishes the horizon and flattens and distorts the shape of each petal; secondly, the complex colour harmonies of, say, Monet's water lilies are dispensed with in favour of planar zones of flat colour. Throughout this phase of his artistic development, Warhol pioneered and refined the screen-printing process that he had made his own and revolutionized as an art form. The square format allows the canvas the freedom of orientation and the luminosity of the paint creates the appearance of floating flowers adding an almost 3-dimensional perspective.
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