Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup I (F & S II.44 - 53)Facts | History | Meaning
Catalogue Title Campbell’s Soup I (F & S II.44 - 53) Year 1968 Size 35″ x 23″ 88,9 x 58,4 cm Medium Portfolio of ten screenprints on paper. Edition Portfolio of 10. Edition of 250 signed in ball-point pen and numbered with a rubber stamp on verso. There are 26 AP signed and lettered A-Z in ball-point pen on verso.
Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup I (FS II.44-53)Meaning & History
"A mass-produced product elevated to the status of art abruptly called into question the very nature of artistic representation."
Campbell’s Soup I, produced in 1968, is the first of Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup portfolios, produced in 1968, with a second volume released a year later in 1969. A now quintessential icon of Modern art, the portfolio is comprised of ten screenprints, each of a different variety of Campbell’s soup.
Warhol’s Campbell Soup cans are a bastion of Pop Art, yet when the artist first silk-screened the everyday for his 1962 exhibition at the Ferus Gallery, Campbell’s Soup Cans, it sent shockwaves through the art world. A mass-produced product elevated to the status of art abruptly called into question the very nature of artistic representation. To cultural critic Jean Baudrillard, Warhol’s soup cans ‘releases us from the need to decide between beautiful and ugly, betweeen real and unreal, between transcendence and immanence’.
The present portfolio demonstrates the fluency of Warhol’s screenprinting process which he had learned from printer Floriano Vecchi in 1961. On paper, the seemingly banal object realised in Warhol’s planes of red and white colour are mesmerising. Though the works are characterised by visual directness, Warhol also carefully stylised each iteration of the can, giving individuation to his two portfolios: there are two distinct types known as the ‘Ferus’ and the ‘Mochengladbach’. The former is the style of can in Warhol’s inaugural exhibition and seen here (named after the Ferus Gallery) which draws directly from an advertisement. Each individual print viewed together are seen as they would be on shelves, recalling their real-life consumption.
So fruitful was the image of the soup can to the artist that he repeated it in every decade of his prolific career – it would reappear in the 1970s in Reversals and Retrospectives and in the 1980s in Campbell’s Soup Box 1985.
The story of Warhol’s decision to paint soup cans is rooted in his beginnings as a graphic artist. In the early 1950s, Warhol created artwork for advertisements, particularly shoes and clothing. The language of advertising and commerce was one that was familiar to him and would go on to leave an indelible mark on his artwork. Unfortunately for the artist, his contemporaries such as Roy Lichtenstein were also harnessing the power of the same style. Whilst Lichtenstein and other pop artists were lauded for billboard paintings, Warhol struggled to gain recognition for his work, until he consciously set out to break the mould once and for all. According to anecdote, Warhol is to have stated: ‘I’ve got to do something that will really have a lot of impact, that will be different enough from Lichtenstein.’ His companion, art dealer Muriel Latow, suggested he paint something that everybody would recognise - ‘something like a can of Campbell’s soup’. An artistic revelation was then born, and thus marked a crucial turning point in Warhol’s career.
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