There are few American show-business icons as beloved as Judy Garland, whose cult following has never faltered since her death in 1969. When he was first starting out as an artist, Andy Warhol even wrote her fan letters. Her daughter, Liza Minnelli, has inspired similar worship in fans belonging to both her mother’s generation and her own. In this unique family collage from Liza Minnelli’s own collection, Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli, 1979, a painting Warhol gave as a gift to Minnelli, Warhol creates a photo album of the mother-daughter stars.
Minnelli first met Warhol in 1977 through a mutual friend, Halston, and before long she, Halston, Warhol and Bianca Jagger were going to Studio 54 together on a regular basis. (Minnelli and Jagger once famously released white doves in the club.) When Warhol went to her 1978 birthday party at Halston’s home at the Olympic Tower, he groused that “The party wasn’t that great. It was missing people. Muhammaed Ali never showed up and Liz Taylor didn’t either. Still, it was a classic moment when the cake came out and Liza sang 'New York, New York’ ” (The Andy Warhol Diaries, edited by Pat Hackett, New York, 1989, pp. 116-117). Warhol’s 1979 book of photographs, Exposures, included a picture of Liza stepping out of the shower. (David Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1995, p. 376).
Victor Bockris dubbed Minnelli one of Warhol’s “Princesses of the Night” (Victor Bockris, The Life and Death of Andy Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 318) and she graced the September, 1979, Interview magazine cover, which Andy himself handed out. In the interview, Warhol asked Liza her beauty secrets. “Oh, honey…moisturize!!!” she replied.
Warhol had first depicted Liza in a number of 1977 Polaroid portraits—in one she is wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “New York.” He also portrayed her in a striking screen print, Liza Minnelli, 1978, and in several paintings done a year later. In Liza Minnelli, 1979, a brightly tinted background sets off Minnelli’s scarlet lips. In 1986, he even did a sewn gelatin-silver photograph of the singer, taken from a 1978 image.
His diary entry for February 17, 1978, notes her coming to the Factory to pose. “Liza came by the office today to have her portrait done. She was a little nervous to begin with….but she was wearing the right makeup and all the pictures came out good” (A. Warhol, op. cit., p. 111). Minnelli remembered sitting for Warhol as “fun and very short. He would get what he wanted very quickly; he had an idea” (Elisa Lipsky-Karasz, “Liza Minnelli’s New York,” Harper’s Bazaar, February 17, 2011).
In 1981, Andy had Thanksgiving dinner at Liza’s Upper East Side apartment where he had a chance to admire his Liza portraits displayed in the long foyer. “It looked really beautiful” (A. Warhol, op. cit., p. 417).
Many of them had been commissioned by Minnelli, who originally wanted Warhol to do one of her full-length; she eventually bought four. Halston considered Warhol’s Liza portraits “his best since the Marilyns.” (Bob Colacello, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, New York, 1990, pp. 377,378). Colacello described Minnelli’s Upper East Side apartment in late 1986 as being “lined with Andy’s multiple portraits of her mother, her father and herself” (Ibid., p. 483).
Judy Garland never sat for Warhol, but he did in fact made several portraits of her. A 1978 painting shows her elegant, coiffed and adorned with jewels. His 1979 screen print is more casual, with Garland’s dark hair down. A later image, Blackglama (Judy Garland from the Ads Portfolio), 1985, done for the Ronald Feldman Gallery, captures the star as she was shown in the famous fur ads, with their slogan, “What becomes a legend most?”
Warhol met Garland personally at least once, in 1965, at a Factory party for “The Fifty Most Beautiful People,” describing it in his book POPism. “This is outrageous. Here’s Judy Garland sitting right across from me belting 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ with a mouth full of spaghetti!” (P. Hackett, POPism, The Warhol ‘60s, New York, 1980, p. 105). But he was also totally starstruck, observing, “To meet a person like Judy whose real was so unreal was a thrilling thing. She could turn everything on and off in a second; she was the greatest actress you could imagine every minute of her life” (Ibid., p. 101). He also identified with her vulnerability, which he compared to Edie Sedgwick’s. “They had dramas going right around the clock and everybody loved to help them through it all. Their problems made them even more attractive” (Ibid., pp. 105,106). When Judy Garland died, he and Candy Darling waited in line to see her body lying in state at Frank Campbell’s Funeral Home (Ibid., p. 288).
With its turquoise, pink and yellow tints and its assemblage of head shots of Judy and Liza (including one of Judy, Liza and her father Vincente Minnelli) at different periods in their lives, Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli, 1979, has a warm and intimate feeling one doesn’t usually associate with Warhol, who epitomized detachment. Warhol has used a montage format rather than the formal grid he usually employs for multiples. And even though most if not all of the images are studio head shots, Warhol’s celebrity worship seems to have taken a backseat to his genuine affection for his glamorous subjects.