ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
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ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
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Property from an Important Collector
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)


ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
signed and dated 'Andy Warhol 67' (on the overlap)
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
22 x 22 in. (55.9 x 55.9 cm.)
Painted in 1967.
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Locksley Shea Gallery, Minneapolis
James Nicholson and Robert Johnson, Minneapolis
Greenberg Gallery, Saint Louis
Private collection, Connecticut
Anon. sale; Christie’s, New York, 6 May 1987, lot 156
Isabella del Frate, New York
Lang & O’Hara Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
R. Crone, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970, p. 294, no. 175.
R. Crone, Das bildnerische Werk Andy Warhols, Berlin, 1976, p. 349, no. 336.
G. Frei and N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, vol. 2A, London, 2004, p. 384, fig. X3 (illustrated).
G. Frei and N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, vol. 2B, London, 2004, pp. 242 and 256, no. 1903 (illustrated).
Honolulu Academy of Arts, Signals in the Sixties, October-November 1968, p. 39 (illustrated).
Pasadena Art Museum; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; London, Tate Gallery and New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Andy Warhol, May 1970-June 1971 (Eindhoven, no. 134; Paris, no. 52; London, no. 63).
Roslyn, Nassau County Museum of Art, Long Island Collects, May-August 2002, pp. 61 and 79 (illustrated).

Brought to you by

Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Bold, opulent, and surreal, Andy Warhol’s Self-Portrait is arguably one of the most enigmatic paintings of his prolific career. While he often used appropriated images of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, and Jackie Kennedy, this Self-Portrait is exemplary of his coextensive autobiographical process. Intimately scaled at about twenty-one inches square, the canvas is a portal into the artist’s mind. He brings us into his interior world, making us a part of his famed circle of glamorous confidants.

Emerging from the shadows and bathed in shades of blue, Warhol gazes upon us in a characteristically inscrutable fashion. He is self-confident and introspective. His hair is highlighted with yellow, and blue acrylic flows boldly onto his graceful fingers as they frame his lips. This bleeding is not an error, but rather a trademark effect of Warhol’s use of silkscreen, a medium that aims to reproduce, but evolves with each impression. The surreal vibrance of the canvas’s colors contrasts with the realism ushered in by Warhol’s use of a flesh tone for his face. He is both of our world and a vision of a dreamlike elsewhere. Like Titian's 16th century portrait of Archbishop Filippo Archinto, who is partially obscured by a magnificent semi-transparent veil to symbolize his political biography, Warhol's 'Self-Portrait' also reveals a character whose image is prolific yet unknowable.

Warhol began his self-portrait paintings in the early 1960s and continued them until his death. The present work epitomizes his most iconic series of self-portraits from 1966-1967, which are exuberant and colorful, as opposed to his rather somber later paintings. Begun as a commission for the American Pavilion at the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal, this series uses a single image, rather than a multiplied, repeated face that became a Warholian trademark. Each canvas in the 1966-1967 self-portraits utilizes new combinations of primary and secondary colors, with fascinating gradations in between that lends fabulous details. As curator Kynaston McShine writes, “Posed with his fingers against the mouth (long a received symbol of contemplation), his face half hidden in shadow, it is Warhol-as-observer par excellence: he sees us more clearly than we see him. The mottled paint accentuates the notion of the picture as an impenetrable surface. In their detachment, these 1967 self-portraits avoid direct, self-confident confrontation with the viewer” (K. McShine, Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1989, pp. 20-21).

Yet even within detachment, there is a desire for community and connection, and perhaps what Warhol wanted more than anything was to be seen and understood. Relatedly, of particular import in the present work is its rare use of a quasi-skin tone on the artist’s face. Critic David Bourdon observed that the 1966-1967 self-portraits are characterized by an “increased emphasis on garish, nonnatural color and avoidance of flesh tones... The bold, jarring colors called attention to this face while simultaneously cancelling out most of his recognizable features” (D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1995, p. 250). We might therefore see this particular Self-Portrait as a uniquely intimate work, one both oblique and affecting—indeed, the very distillation of Warhol’s career.

Although Warhol is self-consciously a product of the consumer culture of the 1950s and 1960s and the bohemian and club scenes in New York, Self-Portrait reminds us of the centuries-long painterly lineage that he completely reformulated. Warhol asks us to look upon him as he looks at us in the tradition of art history’s greatest self-portraits of the modern period, such as Vincent van Gogh’s numerous self-portraits, Gustave Courbet’s The Desperate Man (1844-1845), and Frida Kahlo’s Autorretrato (Muy Fea)/Self-Portrait (Very Ugly) (1933). Warhol’s Self-Portrait is not only a rendering of himself, but also an inflection point in a totally new art history and movement, to which he was a central figure.

A comparison between Self-Portrait and the Baroque master Caravaggio’s seminal Narcissus (1597-1599) reveals the depth of Warhol’s painting practice. Narcissus refers to a Classical myth about a handsome young man who falls in love with his reflection in a pool. Unable to look away, poor Narcissus dies and turns into a flower. It is a cautionary tale, but, like Warhol’s canvas, it is also a work of beauty that defined an art historical era. Narcissus became paradigmatic of the Baroque period, with its theatrical lighting and a modern treatment of mythical and religious subject matter, just as Self-Portrait distills the urgent concerns of Pop art. Caravaggio used a local boy as a model, rather than a professional, and Warhol is of course known for his forward-thinking ability to pull from everyday life. And indeed both Warhol and Caravaggio presage the autobiographical nature of contemporary art, with Warhol using himself quite literally, and Caravaggio using Narcissus as an avatar for himself. Self-Portrait brings the tradition of portraiture into the twentieth century, while acting as a precursor to next generations of contemporary portraitists who followed.

At first, it might seem that Self-Portrait is silent and does not reveal anything about the enigmatic artist. Yet in each self-portrait there is the possibility of empathy with another person and a glimpse, if a brief one in Warhol’s case, into the vastness of their inner life. In Self-Portrait, it is as if the artist is calling out to each viewer. He examines us, and reminds us of the beauty of our own images, and our own stories. The famed Renaissance humanist Leon Battista Alberti wrote of the shimmery waters of Narcissus, “What is painting but the act of embracing by means of art the surface of the pool?” (Leon Battista Alberti, quoted in J. Saslow, A Companion to Renaissance and Baroque Art, New York, 2013, p. 127). Warhol invites us to embrace his own pool of yellow and blue, which coyly opens up to us in Self-Portrait with a rare honesty.

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