Lot 26
  • 26

Andy Warhol

Estimate
1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
Sold
bidding is closed

Description

  • Andy Warhol
  • Flowers
  • signed and dated 64 on the overlap 
  • acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
  • 61 by 61cm.; 24 by 24in.

Provenance

Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (LC# 148)

Mr and Mrs Albert Gartenberg, New York

Stellan Holm Gallery, New York 

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

Exhibited

Pasadena, Pasadena Art Museum; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum; Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; London, Tate Gallery; and New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Andy Warhol, 1970-71, no. 82 

Literature

George Frei, Neil Printz and Sally King Nero Eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings and SculpturesVolume 2A, 1964-1969, New York 2004, p. 302 (text)

Catalogue Note

With pure white blooms gleaming against the verdant green of the foliage beneath, Flowers belongs to one of Andy Warhol’s most celebrated and beloved series, the flower paintings of 1964. The source image originated in a series of colour photographs of seven hibiscus blossoms printed in the June 1964 issue of Modern Photography, taken by Patricia Caulfield in an attempt to demonstrate the varying visual effects of different exposure times and filter settings. The seriality of the images in Modern Photography undoubtedly appealed to Warhol's acute sensitivity to image repetition. However, rather than transferring the entire page of the magazine with four rectangular images of flowers, he isolated and cropped a square composition that included four flowers from one of the reproduced photos. This meant that ultimately the artist would control the terms of replication, variation and manipulation in his paintings more closely in multi-panel arrangements. This crop was then transferred onto acetate and its tonal range polarised to increase sharpness and provide the optimum template for the silkscreen to be made. Warhol chose the square format because of its refutation of a fixed orientation and the four possible compositional options available. Of course, this also perfectly suited the variable alignment of the flowers themselves, which had been shot on film from an overhead perspective and could hence be viewed any way up. Warhol commented on the efficacy of the square format: "I like painting on a square because you don't have to decide whether it should be longer-longer or shorter-shorter or longer-shorter: it's just a square" (Andy Warhol quoted in: David Bourdon, Warhol, New York 1989, p. 191).

Warhol’s production of flower paintings has become legendary: during the summer of 1964 he created canvases in square formats measuring 82, 48 and 24 inches respectively, intended for a show with his new dealer Leo Castelli opening in New York in November of that year. Michael Lobel argues that the exhibition of the Flower series at Leo Castelli marked a highly significant point in Warhol’s career: “The show, his first with the gallery, represented a career milestone, since his first attempt at showing with Castelli, in 1961, had been met with rejection… Now he was joining the gallery that represented the cream of the crop of American vanguard art, including such leading lights as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Frank Stella” (Michael Lobel, ‘In Transition: Warhol’s Flowers’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Eykyn Maclean, Andy Warhol Flowers, 2012, n.p.). The production of the flower paintings thus arguably marked a new peak of recognition and acceptance for Warhol as one of the most important artists of this period, enabling him to take his place as a creative giant amongst this pantheon of revered artistic figures active in post-war New York.

Through the decades since the 1960s Warhol's flower paintings have pervaded a global consciousness as the totemic standard of classic American Pop; their imagery acting as talismanic metaphor for a generation that changed not only artistic but also social and political topographies in a supremely transformative decade. Unlike the artist's legendary subjects of that period concerned principally with consumerism, celebrity, death and disasters, the flower corpus was a significant departure towards the more abstract; not only in terms of aesthetic character but also of philosophical import. Whilst the paintings that immediately preceded the flowers typically represented narrative fact, recorded through the objectivity of the camera lens and re-contextualised through the artist's impassionate silkscreen, this series re-presents an ultimately quotidian subject devoid of context. There is no story behind these petals of a spectacular rise to fame or an untimely death; no self-evident critique of the agents of celebrity culture or the manipulation of collective psychology through the engines of mass-media. With the indeterminate content of the flowers, Warhol invited, for the first time, a far greater degree of interpretation, questioning and reflection from the spectator, thereby instituting a far grander range of individual subjective response. Indeed, it is precisely due to the conceptual accessibility of the anti-didactic and egalitarian imagery of the Flowers series that it has proliferated as such a potent symbol of an entire artistic movement.

Heiner Bastian has discussed the powerful impact of Warhol's Flower series, suggesting that they convey "a virtual, painful stillness. Since they seemingly only live on the surface, in the stasis of their coloration, they also initiate only the one metamorphosis which is a fundamental tenet of Warhol's work: moments in a notion of transience. The flower pictures were for Everyman, they embodied Warhol's power of concretization, the shortest possible route to stylization, both open to psychological interpretation and an ephemeral symbol. But the flowers... were also to be read as metaphors for the flowers of death. Warhol's Flowers resist every philosophical transfiguration as effectively as the pictures of disasters and catastrophes which they now seem ever closer to" (Heiner Bastian in: Exhibition Catalogue, Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie, Andy Warhol: Retrospective, 2002, p. 33). Forever striving to capture the intangible transience of fame, the motif of the flourishing hibiscus ultimately serves as a metaphor for the fleeting brevity of celebrity, and, by extension, references the fragile beauty of life itself.

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