Leonor Fini and Andy Warhol had many things in common. They were both magnificently talented artists, they both stood up for their avant-garde work, and they both loved cats. The poised and self-assured nature of the cat must have appealed to both artists as a way to represent themselves; possibly as a type of shield as Warhol moved to New York from Pittsburgh. Fini had long taken on a cat-like persona in her paintings in the form of a sphinx. Surrealists often represented themselves in an animal form as a way of exploring the human psyche. Max Ernst often took on the identity of Loplop the giant bird for example, while Leonora Carrington identified with a horse. André Breton listed a certain number of animals as mythologically important for surrealism during the 1940s and Ted Joans compiled a list of surrealist animals in his magazine Dies und Das in 1984.
But rather than depict the cats as an extension of himself, Andy Warhol departs from the surrealistic tendencies of psychological introspection. His cats are rendered carefully, focusing on form and color. 25 Cats Name[d] Sam reflects his deeply personal connection with his mother. Warhol’s work in the 1950s was heavily influenced by Julia Warhola’s illustrative style and content. She did the lettering his early books after having moved in with him in New York to help him as an artist and she later released a sort of sequel to 25 Cats Name[d] Sam in 1957, Holy Cats.
Andy Warhol wrote to Fini telling her of his admiration in the late 1970s. For the purpose of an article in his Interview Magazine, Warhol visited her at her studio in Paris where they sat and talked for days. Fini was known to be a great story teller, and Andy, a great listener. They got along famously and Warhol gifted Fini with a copy of 25 Cats Name[d] Sam (the present lot) which he inscribed to her on the cover. She had incidentally recently finished her own book about cats, Histoire de Vibrissa, in 1973. He later additionally gifted her the original maquette of 25 Cats Name[d] Sam as well. During this visit in Paris, Vogue photographer Philippe Morillon took a photo of Fini which shows her from above surrounded by cats. She loved the photo, which was later included in a spread in the February 1978 issue of Interview Magazine called “Leonor Fini The Cat’s Meow” forever memorializing their encounter.