Graduating with a BFA in Pictorial Design from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Andy Warhol established a successful career as a commercial illustrator in 1950s New York. Clients, which spanned editorial, advertising and window design, included Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Tiffany & Co and Bonwit Teller.
Warhol first achieved acclaim as an artist in 1962 when he exhibited a large number of original paintings, including 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans, at Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. That same year, he moved from painting to silkscreen printing with an exhibition at Stable Gallery in New York, which featured portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.
The new medium allowed Warhol to mass-produce images, much like the subject matter depicted in his work, which in the 1960s focused predominantly on recognisable, branded, everyday objects such as Coca-Cola bottles and Brillo soap pads, in a commentary on America’s post-war consumer culture. “The more you look at the exact same thing, the more the meaning goes away,” he said. Warhol’s work broke down the barriers between high art and pop culture and led to the Pop Art movement, with which the American cultural icon is synonymous.
Flowers (1970s) marks a move towards abstraction for the artist, with a focus on colour, texture and simplified shape. Returning to painting later in his career, Warhol continued to experiment, exploring pure abstraction in his Oxidations series (1977) and Shadows series (1978-79), which had no discernible subject matter.