Andy Warhol Lot 44
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
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Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

The Two Sisters (After de Chirico)

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
The Two Sisters (After de Chirico)
signed and dated 'Andy Warhol 82' (on the overlap)
acrylic and silkscreen inks on canvas
50 x 42 in. (127 x 106.7 cm.)
Painted in 1982.
Private collection, New York, acquired from the artist
Thomas Amann Fine Art AG, Zurich
Waddington Galleries, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Rome, Sala degli Orazi e Curiazi, Comune di Roma, Warhol verso de Chirico, November 1982-January 1983, pp. 52 and 57 (illustrated in color).
New York, Marisa Del Re Gallery, Warhol verso de Chirico, April-May 1985, p. 44 (illustrated in color).
Kunsthaus Zurich; Munich, Haus der Kunst and Nationalgalerie Berlin, Arnold Böcklin, Giorgio di Chirico, Max Ernst: Eine Reise ins Ungewisse, October 1997-August 1998, no. 237.
London, Waddington Galleries, Andy Warhol (After de Chirico), October-November 1998, no. 9 (illustrated in color).

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Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

In 1982, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held a major retrospective of work by the Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico. Inspired by the media coverage of that show, Andy Warhol took images of de Chirico’s work as the subject for a new group of paintings produced that year. Like his paintings of Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor and Jackie Kennedy which used material that circulated in the pop culture tabloids, or even works of high art like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, which made a media sensation when it was exhibited in New York in 1963, Warhol drew inspiration from the headliners of the day. Ironically though, the source image for Warhol’s After de Chirico series were not included in the exhibition at MoMA. As art critic Robert C. Morgan reports, a “disclaimer printed in the catalogue and mounted on the exhibition walls stated that works from the late period of the artist (after 1928) suffered a decline and therefore would not be included in the exhibition” (R. Morgan, “A Triple Alliance: de Chirico, Picabia, Warhol,” The Brooklyn Rail, Mar. 1, 2004, n.p.). Thus, a significant portion of the artist’s work was excluded from the exhibition, because as Warhol notes, de Chirico repeated the same compositions as many as a hundred times over the course of his life. It was these very works, excluded from the official history of both art and de Chirico’s production that inspired Warhol. Where MoMA curators felt the artist was repetitive, Warhol found a kindred spirit.

In TheTwo Sisters (After de Chirico), Warhol appropriated an image of de Chirico’s Masks from 1973, though the artist had painted similar compositions since his 1915. In de Chirico’s painting, the heads of two mannequins, a wooden one in the foreground, and a fabric-covered on behind it, are grouped together in an open-air, yet claustrophobic room. The bell tower of the Cathedral of Ferrara—de Chirico’s hometown made famous in the landscapes of his paintings—is visible through the window behind the mannequin heads. Masks displays all the qualities of de Chirico’s Metaphysical Painting style developed in the 1910s—saturated colors, warm late-in-day Mediterranean light that casts deep, long, raking shadows, and a desolate landscape that bears the trace of occupation but without people in sight. Together these elements contribute to the ominous tones and the dreamlike qualities of the artist’s haunting and uncanny scenes, which would inspire the Surrealists a generation later. After his famed Metaphysical period, the artist would increasingly turn to mannequins as his subject, suggesting the absent figures in his landscapes.

Warhol’s version of de Chirico’s painting repeats its image in a grid of four in a technicolored reorganization of the four colors of the CMYK printing: cyan, magenta, yellow and key black. Blocks of red clash with pink and a blue line traverses the horizontal plane of the canvas twice. According to art historian Robert Rosenblum, Warhol “clearly recognized the positive aspects of de Chirico’s so often maligned later work, namely its full embrace of the possibilities of repetition, of factory-style, of existing works, and its undermining of those traditions of originality, inspiration, and handmade spontaneity which Warhol, in his own ways, had been subverting since the 1960s” (R. Rosenblum quoted in R. Morgan, “A Triple Alliance). Recontextualized through Warhol’s Pop vision, de Chirico’s mannequins are reconnected to their commercial function.

Warhol met de Chirico in 1974 and the two artists developed a strong friendship in the last year of the artist’s life. It was Carlo Berlotti, the Italian collector and businessman who introduced Warhol and de Chirico, who suggested that Warhol adopt de Chirico’s work as his subject matter. Warhol was inspired by “a reproduction in the [MoMA] exhibition catalogue of Carlo Ragghuanti’s image from Critica d’Arte—eighteen nearly identical versions of de Chirico’s The Disquieting Muses, dating from 1945 to 1962, arranged in three neat rows spread over two pages that made the deepest impression on the younger artist. This grid like organization recalls the modular format of Warhol’s Pop paintings of soup cans, which represents images of consumer goods arranged in stacked and ordered rows that mimic the repetitive displays in supermarket shelves” (M. Taylor, Giorgio de Chirico and the Myth of Ariadne, Philadelphia, 2002, p. 164).

Warhol’s work would have been seen in the context of the publicity that surrounded the revival of de Chirico’s work at MoMA, just as the posters that advertised the exhibition and sold in the gift shop as souvenirs function as part of the fabrication of celebrity around the Italian master. Warhol’s appropriation of de Chirico would inspire those artists of the 1980s using the postmodern strategy, but also he also participates in a much older tradition of learning to paint and draw by copying the masters who came before, Warhol just does so using mechanical means. After de Chirico, Warhol would also appropriate other giants of art history including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Raphael and Lucas Cranach the Elder.

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