Prints & Multiples

Prints & Multiples

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 6. Superman, from Myths.

Property from an Important Private British Collection

Andy Warhol

Superman, from Myths

Lot Closed

September 26, 01:06 PM GMT


220,000 - 350,000 GBP

Lot Details


Andy Warhol

1928 - 1987

Superman, from Myths

signed in pencil, inscribed and numbered TP 19/30

screenprint in a unique colour combination with diamond dust on Lenox Museum Board

sheet: 965 by 965 mm. 38 by 38 in.

Executed in 1981; this impression is one of 30 unique trial proofs aside from the numbered edition of 200, with the printer's blindstamp, Rupert Jasen Smith, published by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., New York.

Feldman & Schellmann IIB.260

Instantly recognisable, Warhol’s powerful depiction of Superman invites viewers to reflect on the mythic qualities our society bestows on celebrities. As a young child, Warhol was sickly and frail, confined to his home for months while recovering from illness and anxiety from being teased at school. He read comic books to pass the time, finding comfort and escapism in the stories of Clark Kent, the man with the secret identity. Like many other children, Warhol imagined himself in the shoes of his comic book hero. In Warhol's heroic, forceful representation of Superman, the image of sheer strength and gravitas is imbued with the media's power to create identity and desire. Created in 1981, Superman is one of ten icons from his celebrated Myths series. Santa Claus, Mickey Mouse, Uncle Sam, Howdy Doody, Greta Garbo, and Andy Warhol himself (titled The Shadow) are among the other figures depicted in Myths. The character of Superman was created by the writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933, and throughout the 90 years in which he has graced our newspapers, comic books, television and film screens, Superman’s appearance has remained constant. In addition to his ubiquitous blue costume and red cape, the resounding power of the stylized red-and-yellow S shield on his chest has assumed a symbolic gravitas, becoming a fully integrated part of our collective social consciousness as an inspiring icon of the triumph of good over evil.


As envisaged by Warhol, Superman has transcended his status as an idol of popular culture and entered the artist’s pantheon of indelible celebrity. He becomes one of Warhol’s stars, fully subsumed within the compendium of celebrity portraiture for which the artist is so revered. As Metcalf has written,


"What is the difference between Marilyn Monroe, a Campbell's Soup Can, Uncle Sam, Golda Meir, O. J. Simpson, and Mickey Mouse? Nothing, say the portraits of Andy Warhol. They are all icons of America's modern mythology of celebrity. Icons that sell...To paraphrase Joseph Campbell, mythology is the organization of metaphorical figures that connote a state of mind, that transcend their specific place or time... To paraphrase Andy Warhol's portraits, the mythology of America is celebrity, the gods and demigods are those who can sell through their mass-produced images, and the course of action we, as a culture, are called to is to consume. These portraits record an American culture transformed from hero- to celebrity-worship and the role of cultural icon as celebrity, a commodity, and a piece of commercial art that sells. Through these portraits, Warhol both documented and encouraged the collapse of separation between individual, logo and myth. The celebrity is no longer an individual, but a brand name, a logo.''


(Greg Metcalf, "Heroes, Myth, and Cultural Icons,'' in Exh. Cat., College Park, The Art Gallery of the University of Maryland, Reframing Andy Warhol: Constructing American Myths, Heroes and Cultural Icons, 1998, p. 6)

Warhol's Myths series and Superman in particular recognises and serves to "remind us that anyone (living or not, human or mouse) can be a cultural icon that sells, a celebrity. When celebrity is seen through its ability to sell, then being packaged to sell makes one a celebrity." (Metcalf, Op. Cit., p. 9) Warhol had a profound understanding of this principle, evidenced by the cultivation of his own celebrity image as the iconoclastic artist who claimed no deep meaning for his art. Superman is archetypal of the Myths series and, indeed, the whole of Warhol’s conceptual project as an incisive comment on the nature of a society where myths spring from popular culture and heroes are fictional, intertwined with celebrity and commercialization.

The present impression, a rare trial proof embellished with diamond dust aside from the regular edition, is one of only thirty impressions printed in a unique colourway. Distinct from the regular edition, the golden yellow background and bright primary colours of blue and red are infused with nostalgia and offer visual reminders of the golden age of comic books with a Warholian sparkle.