- Andy Warhol
- Judy Garland
- acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
- 101 by 101cm.; 39 3/4 by 39 3/4 in.
- Executed in 1978.
Galerie Volker Diehl, Berlin
Galerie Nikolaus Sonne Fine Art, Berlin
Galerie Michael Schultz, Berlin
Sale: Christie’s, London, Post-War Evening Sale, 6 February 2002, Lot 22
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
Executed in his signature silkscreen technique, this colourful work asserts Garland’s public role as a product of the media, presented for consumption by the masses, akin to Warhol’s famous cans of Campbell’s soup. Yet this work is distinguished from the machine-like precision of those earlier mass-produced images by the vividness of the splashy expressionistic brushstrokes framing Garland’s face. This vibrant approach is typical of Warhol’s very best portraits of the 1970s. Furthermore, it is significant that Warhol has chosen not to depict Garland as the girl-next-door, as she was first known to the American populace, but rather as a mature figure of extraordinary style and status, adorned with jewels and fur, crowned by glossy black hair, and made up in a classic Hollywood style with her coy arched eyebrow.
Warhol’s use of Judy Garland as his subject reflected more than just his passion for celebrity. His interest in the actress stemmed from long before his days as an artist, right back to childhood; as his friend Elaine Baumann reflected, “He would write fan letters to Truman Capote and Judy Garland” (Victor Bockris, The Life and Death of Andy Warhol, London 1989, p. 86). Growing up in a society dominated by television and media, Warhol came to venerate pop culture icons, and his obsession with celebrity came to monopolise his persona. As a darling of both stage and screen, Garland captured the imagination of the young Warhol along with the entire world.
However, that Garland always held a special place in the Warholian cast of characters was as much because of her publicised struggles as for her lifelong fame. Finding similarities between Garland and his beloved muse Edie Sedgwick, Warhol wrote: “Edie and Judy had something in common – a way of getting everybody totally involved in their problems… They had dramas going right around the clock, and everybody loved to help them through it all. Their problems made them even more attractive” (Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett, POPism: The Warhol Sixties, New York 1980, pp. 132-33). The underlying human weakness that Warhol saw in this larger than life figure made Garland relatable to the public and transformed her into a major and enduring icon. Her massive following included many members of the camp and gay communities, who revered and worshipped her for her talent, pageantry, and persona. It was Garland’s diversity of character, from innocent wide-eyed girl to suffering and vulnerable woman, which allowed her to resonate with so many, almost as if she were playing a character her whole life.
In depicting Garland nine years after her death from an overdose of barbiturates, Warhol makes reference to the overarching themes of death and morbidity that have permeated his entire oeuvre. In this context, the black silkscreened stamp of her visage seems more symbolic than aesthetic; as if the brutal inescapable fact of her death had been printed upon the playful splashy colour of her star-studded life. Just as Warhol’s brillo pads and Coca-Cola bottles were presented to the public as objects for their collective consumption, so too here is Garland – an object of tantalising beauty, built up by the media into an immediately recognisable icon. In this work, Warhol idiosyncratically hones in on the innate temporality of celebrity; to focus on the timelessness of his sitter's image is to focus on the brevity of her life.