Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Property from the Collection of Frances Lewis
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)


Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
signed, inscribed and dated 'Andy Warhol 66 Sidney Lewis' (on the overlap)
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
22½ x 22½ in. (57.2 x 57.2 cm.)
Painted in 1966.
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner
G. Frei and N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, vol. 02B, New York, 2004, pp. 237 and 255, no. 1886 (illustrated in color).
Tokyo, Setagaya Art Museum; Osaka, National Museum of Art and Fukuoka Art Museum, Beyond the Frame, July-December 1991, no. 92 (illustrated in color).
Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, IN/SIGHT: Late 20th Century Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, February-May 1993.
Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Andy Warhol: Early Portraits, March-September 1994.
Radford University, Flossie Martin Gallery, March-April 1996.
Newport News, Peninsula Fine Arts Center, January-March 1997.

Lot Essay

Leaping off the canvas with a dramatic sense of pulsating color, this 1966 self-portrait of Andy Warhol is one of the most vibrant and iconic images that the artist created. Among the most acclaimed series of his self-portraits, this work represents Warhol at the height of his artistic and celebrity status, as he portrays himself confidently, in control, and at the zenith of his prestige. Moving from his earlier series of single-color seriograph self-portraits, the 1966 version introduces a more elaborate and complex use of color. The alternating layers of blood red, papal purple, and vibrant yellow pigments cause the surface of the particular work to resonate with psychedelic power; it is with these self-portraits that Warhol finally harnesses the supremacy of color with thrilling effect.

Self-Portrait was acquired directly from the artist by the leading collectors Sydney and Frances Lewis in 1966, and has remained in the family's possession ever since. Mr. Lewis and his wife, Frances, began collecting art in the early 1960s and their vision and foresight propelled them to the forefront of the nascent Pop art movement. The couple's active collecting involvement fostered many close friendships with artists, including a particularly close friendship with Warhol, whose works they amassed in depth over the next two decades, including a 1966 multi-colored portrait that Warhol painted of Frances Lewis. In 1969 they donated their first works of art to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and began a long-lasting relationship with the institution. In 1985 they generously made a major donation of over 1,500 works of art, as well as funded the construction of the museum's new West Wing, the opening night Gala at which Warhol was in attendance.

Leaning on the palm of his hand, his index and middle fingers extended on either side of his pursed lips, Warhol portrays himself in a moment of assured regard. The artist's gaze engages the viewer with great attention, acknowledging as it beckons the voyeuristic exchange. The carefully fashioned image the artist constructed of himself marked an important departure from the earlier self-portraits in which he was either shielded from the public gaze behind dark sunglasses, or posed with an affectless, blank stare, a tabula rasa for self-projection by the viewer "to prove that it's not what you are that counts, it's what they think you are" ( As the critic and Warhol scholar David Bourdon points out, this series was pivotal in establishing the maturity of the artist: "[This series] marked a new development in his portraiture with increased emphasis on garish, non-natural color and avoidance of flesh tones.... The bold, jarring colors called attention to this face while simultaneously cancelling out most of his recognizable features. The self-portraits offered no detailed information about either his physiognomy or his psychological state; instead, they present him as a detached, shadowy, and elusive voyeur. They exemplified his ability to manipulate his public image, one of the recurring themes of his art. There he was... larger than life, yet often so abstract as to be difficult to recognize. The lurid, arbitrary hues suggest a chameleon personality--or a mutating persona-- that assumes the coloration of its background. Andy appeared, in fact, to be hiding behind a camouflage of brilliant color" (D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1995, p. 250).

The 1966 self-portraits were a turning point for Warhol. Finally among the images of the rich and famous or the press images of death and disaster, he had become a celebrity in his own right, an element in his own visual repertoire. By this time, Warhol was the central figure in both the New York art world and the wider social scene and had become an icon, a ubiquitous and glamorous figure who frequented the city's art galleries, celebrity parties, and nightclubs. Self-Portrait is as much a social comment about self-presentation and self-celebration as an artistic statement. In the present work, he gazes out of the picture with a mixture of hauteur and erudition. This is a man who single-handedly turned preconceptions upside down, a revolutionary among the pioneers of Pop. Now that he was a recognized presence, it was only fitting that he should enshrine himself as he had other celebrities in his oeuvre. Not only does Self-Portrait capture Warhol, but it also captures the spirit of the age. The incongruous, neon colors that he has used harness a mixture of the nihilistic darkness of the Velvet Underground and the psychedelia of the Sixties. The presentation of the image reminds us of billboards: high culture and popular culture combine to create a contemporary self-reflective cocktail. Self-Portrait throbs with the brooding energy and life of its age.

The rich tradition of self-portraiture dates back many centuries, a history with which Warhol would have been entirely conversant. From Rembrandt to Picasso, from Frans Hals to Francis Bacon, the steady gaze depicted in Self-Portrait engages, if ironically, with the fiercely probing portrayals of the genre. Although he was an inherently modern painter, the self-conscious referencing of art-historical models is apparent, for example, Rodin's The Thinker, 1902, and Courbet's The Man with the Leather Belt,1845-46.

This 1966 self-portrait is seen as a turning point for Warhol, both in terms of technique and presentation: the obfuscation of the image is counterpoised with its context--the artist's own status as an art world luminary. The confident pose, audacious use of color, and the overall enigmatic nature of the image demonstrate a man at the height of his artistic and celebrity prowess. But Warhol's increasing fame also meant a bold awareness of the ambition for which an image is exploited. As such, the image that Warhol chose to project in Self-Portrait is a presentation to the viewer of a carefully manipulated construct--a strangely ambiguous characterization of both the man and his art.

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