Andy Warhol was a famous artist during the 1950s who explored and demonstrated popular culture through his artwork. His artistic turning point came when he published the iconic portrait of the actress, Elizabeth Taylor in 1963. Warhol deciding to choose Elizabeth Taylor as one of his portraits was so intriguing to the public because during these years she became the first woman to be paid $1 million to appear in the film “Cleopatra”, was the first celebrity to launch a fragrance brand, and was awarded three Oscars throughout her career (Maiocchi).
She was a very successful and well-liked women during these years. Andy used the commercial printing process of photo-emulsion silkscreen and applied it to a canvas, which had allowed him to reproduce the same image over and over again. While painting, on the other hand, is considered a process for producing a single original piece of artwork, in printmaking, each print edition is still considered an original work of art, just with many reproductions of it.
This process is known as silk screening. An article detailing Andy Warhol’s technique explains that, silkscreening is a printing process that can produce many artworks that look the same at once (Tate). It also states that “The designs are separated out into individual colors and the position of each color is marked out by a stencil on a screen. The screen is a frame of wood with a fine mesh stretched over it. The different colored inks are pushed through each stencil one at a time and the colors build up to form a picture”.
It is also said that, “editions of silkscreens can range from 1 to 500 prints. Since the stencils are destroyed after printing, each edition is unique”. These art pieces are not exact copies of each other since they all produce their own differences.
In Warhol’s artworks, he would present groups of prints with contrasting colors together. When he began using images of Elizabeth Taylor in early 1960s, her beauty and attraction fueled interest because she was at the height of her career during those years. Her signature features were her eyes and lips. They were both created with very vibrant and loud colors. Warhol used a bright blue to pop out the eyes and a bright red for the lips and background, which are both primary colors. In his first production of Elizabeth, he also worked with the colors: pink and black. The pink color was used as her skin tone and the black was used for her hair and the shadows of her face. Warhol also chose bright red as the background color to contrast against her dark hair. He used the light pink color to create a very soft look to her face, making her more appealing. The use of the bright blue on her eyelid and bright red on her lips was to give the effect that she was wearing makeup, which symbolized Elizabeth’s celebrity status. These makeup effects made her look more elegant.
In art, artists are able to play around with texture, which is one of the seven elements of art. It is described as, “the way a three-dimensional work actually feels when touched. Artists working in a two-dimensional medium also work with texture and the texture may either be real or implied”. In silk-screening, you can create sections or whole prints to appear smooth, stand out, or shine. Warhol created all of his Elizabeth Taylor portraits with a very smooth and shiny surface. He did not add any three-dimensional texture to the portrait. Warhol did play with depth by using a very specific choice of colors. Colors have three main characteristics: hue, saturation, and value. Hue refers to the color itself.
Painter Lisa Marder explained these characteristics by saying that, “Colors that are warmer in hue (contain more yellow) tend to come forward in a painting, and those that are cooler (contain bluer), tend to recede. Also, colors that are more saturated (intense) come forward, while those that are less saturated (more neutral), tend to sit back in a painting. Value is how light or dark a color is” (Marder). Andy Warhol used a warm red to add a fuller look to Elizabeth’s lips since this color makes the illustration pop out more. He also chose to work with a dark color give contour to her cheek, without this, it would make her face look very round. The dark color also gave her a very appealing button nose because of the way Warhol curved the black next to her nose. Finally, the color pink was chosen for her tone because it was intended to sit back in the painting while focusing on other features to pop out more.
Overall, the choice of colors are important when it comes to demonstrating what elements an artist wants to emphasize, as in toning down certain parts of the artwork, or even what emotions want to be felt with the color selection. In Andy Warhol’s portrait of Elizabeth Taylor, there is not much movement going on. Elizabeth is positioned in the center of the piece and her face looks as if it is looking directly at the person facing the image. Everything in the portrait is still and not moving, her hair is positioned perfectly in place. Warhol created a motionless picture to capture her still beauty without adding any moving effects to it. This showed how elegant she was with a simple look.
Andy Warhol was born on August 6, 1928. He was born to two Slovakian immigrant parents who lived in Pittsburg and was named Andrew Warhola. At an early age he was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder, Sydenham chorea, which made him have a lot of involuntary rapid movements. Andy Warhol would find comfort and escape in the form of looking at popular celebrity magazines and DC comic book imagery, which he would return to years later. In his early adulthood years, he moved to New York and ended up graduating with a degree in Pictorial Design from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1949. Warhol also got a studio in New York and named it, ‘The Factory.’ This new studio became a popular meeting place for artists, celebrities, dropouts, and bands.
In a biography of Warhol, it detailed that, “Work came quickly to Warhol in New York, a city he made his home and studio for the rest of his life. Within a year of arriving, Warhol garnered top assignments as a commercial artist for a variety of clients including Columbia Records, Glamour magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, NBC, Tiffany & Co., Vogue, and others. Warhol quickly became established as one of the city’s most sought-after, commercial illustrators, working for magazines such as Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar.” Many companies wanted Warhol to work for them because of his unique artistic style that would catch the consumer’s eye. After establishing himself as an acclaimed graphic artist, Warhol turned to paint and drawing in the 1950s, and in 1952 he had his first solo exhibition at the Hugo Gallery. Through the years, his paintings incorporated photo-based techniques and he developed as a commercial illustrator.
His interest in mass production reflected the fast-developing consumer culture he recognized in America. In the 1960s, this is when he began to produce the work for which he is the most celebrated for. Warhol’s inspiration was taken from popular culture, he showed it in the forms of advertising, comics, magazines, and packaging. He was able to produce his works quickly by transferring images onto canvases or paper through photography and screenprinting. Warhol stated that he wanted to make works that showed no trace of having been produced by hand, this is one of the reasons he used the silk screening technique. Andy Warhol was one of the most influential American artists to emerge in the post-war period. He did not just do prints though, he made films, digital artwork, comic strips, paintings, and sculptures. Warhol extensively explored the medium of photography and a lot inspirational advertising campaigns.
Among his most famous paintings were comic strips, images of Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali, Mick Jagger, Coca Cola bottles, and the electric chair. Probably one of the best-known illustrations at the time was the famous Campbell soup can. In his drawings, Warhol simplified objects and portraits were painted in many different colors which was something different that brought a lot of attention to his artistry. Warhol began using images of Elizabeth Taylor in early 1962. This evolved to reveal his enduring fascination with celebrities and mortality, with many of his most powerful images touching on these themes. Warhol’s portraits were of the rich and famous, which have become some of his defining works.
Andy Warhol told Art News interviewer Gene Swenson, ‘The reason I’m painting this way is that I want to be a machine, and I feel that whatever I do and do machine-like is what I want to do’ (Kamholz). Warhol was referring to his newfound process of silk-screen printing images repeatedly onto a single canvas. This production of machine-like work was very appealing to Warhol. Once he discovered the process and implications of working with silkscreens, Warhol began getting to know the process and mastering it. At that time he used his own drawings as the basis to create the silk-screened print. Warhol soon learned that it was possible to use photographs as the basis for a silk-screen print, and the resulting image proved to be much sharper and cleaner.
Andy Warhol was one of the most significant and prolific figures of his time, his works were always exploring the connection between celebrity culture and artistic expression. Warhol had already made his place in the art community early in his career, and even had an international audience with. In 1961, he unveiled the concept of Pop Art and showcased a collection of paintings that focused on mass-produced commercial goods. Pop Art became far from traditional ‘high art’ themes of morality, mythology, and classic history. Instead, Pop artists celebrated commonplace objects and people of everyday life. They were simple but vibrant designs. Their goal was to elevate popular culture to the level of fine art. The American artists were inspired by what they saw and experienced living within that culture.
Pop Art was an art movement that emerged in the 1950s and flourished in the 1960s, taking inspiration from sources in popular and commercial culture such as advertising, Hollywood movies, and pop music. It began as a revolt against the dominant approaches of art, culture, and traditional views on what art could be. Pop art elevated aspects of everyday culture in the middle of the 20th century to the status of art. During the 1960s Andy Warhol had shifted his concentration to paint more realistic pictures of everyday items. Andy Warhol’s art had a significant influence on the Pop Art movement. Although artists had drawn on popular culture throughout the 20th century, Pop Art marked an important new stage in the breakdown between high and low art forms. Pop art is a way to appreciate popular culture. Warhol’s paintings from the early 1960s were important in exploring some of these developments.
What had led to the Pop Art movement was a post-World War II boom in the economy led to higher salaries and more leisure time, and mass-production led to the creation of objects like televisions, dishwashers, and cars on an unprecedented scale (Kamholz). With newfound wealth, versatility, and free time, television became the more dominant media of the 1950s. There were also many social movements seeking equality and civil rights for African Americans and women (Kamholz). This spirit of rebellion took root in the art world as well (Kamholz). In protest, they turned to sources of inspiration like pop music, product packaging (like the Campbell’s soup can), comic books, and Hollywood movies.
Andy Warhol’s influence on Pop Art paved the way for later artists to explore questions about the conceptual nature of art, its form, its relationship to mass production, and its relationship to the everyday things around us (Kamholz). It created a way for artists to think about how their own cultures can influence their own artworks. Overall, Pop Art helped to set up the stage for contemporary art to address, critique, and deconstruct the world around us.
The reason that I chose to write about this piece was that Elizabeth Taylor’s beauty was what caught my attention. I liked how Andy Warhol portrayed her beauty in such a simple way and with vibrant colors. I think as a woman back in the 1900s, she accomplished a lot since she starred in almost 33 movies. I admire how Warhol chose a woman for his portrait. He would pick a lot of strong females like Marilyn Monroe as well. I also chose this piece because it was right at the start of a new Pop Art movement.