In Andy Warhol's classic Flowers, large blossoms of red and white hover over a dark grassy ground. Warhol uses his signature Day-Glo shades to brilliantly contrast the black and dark green background. In the summer of 1964, he moved into his first "Factory" studio, which was dedicated to the fabrication of his Flowers. In the same year, the series was featured prominently in Warhol's first show at the Leo Castelli Gallery. Due to its simple graphic clarity and chromatic brilliance, Flowers is a defining work within Warhol's oeuvre.
Flowers derives its imagery from a photograph of hibiscus flowers that Warhol found in the June 1964 issue of Modern Photography. The artist pared down the image to flat, planar shapes and vivid outlines, which he then transferred onto canvas via silkscreen. Warhol adjusted the source image to conform to a square format and also rotated one of its flowers. By color-blocking each blossom, the artist represents each flower as a flat, graphic form that appears to hover over the background. As Bourdon noted, "The illusion that the floating blossoms do not occupy the same surface as the background, was created by the intensity of the chromatic contrast, a striking demonstration of the ability of the colors to suggest advancing or receding planes" (D. Bourdon, Andy Warhol, New York, 1989, pp. 191-192).
Warhol began painting Flowers upon the suggestion of Henry Geldzahler, then the curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Its subject matter recalls the traditional format of the still life, which is made utterly modern through Warhol's unconventional interpretation. Gerard Malanga, Warhol's close associate at the time, said of the series, "With the Flowers, Andy was just trying a different subject matter. In a funny way, he was kind of repeating the history of art. It was like, now we're doing my Flower period! Like Monet's water lilies, Van Gogh's flowers, the genre" (G. Malanga quoted in A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol, New York, 2003, p. 74).