Campbell's Soup Cans  

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Campbell's Soup Cans, which is sometimes referred to as 32 Campbell's Soup Cans, is a work of art produced in 1962 by Andy Warhol. It consists of thirty-two canvases, each consisting of a painting of a Campbell's Soup can—one of each of the canned soup varieties the company offered at the time. The individual paintings were produced by a printmaking method—the semi-mechanized silkscreen process, using a non-painterly style. Campbell's Soup Cans' reliance on themes from popular culture helped to usher in pop art as a major art movement in the USA.

Warhol, a commercial illustrator who became a successful author, publisher, painter, and film director, showed the work on July 9, 1962 in his first one-man gallery exhibition as a fine artist. in the Ferus Gallery of Los Angeles, California. The exhibition marked the West Coast debut of pop art. The combination of the semi-mechanized process, the non-painterly style, and the commercial subject initially caused offense, as the work's blatantly mundane commercialism represented a direct affront to the technique and philosophy of abstract expressionism. In the United States the abstract expressionism art movement was dominant during the post-war period, and it held not only to "fine art" values and aesthetics but also to a mystical inclination. This controversy led to a great deal of debate about the merits and ethics of such work. Warhol's motives as an artist were questioned, and they continue to be topical to this day. The large public commotion helped transform Warhol from being an accomplished 1950s commercial illustrator to a notable fine artist, and it helped distinguish him from other rising pop artists. Although commercial demand for his paintings was not immediate, Warhol's association with the subject led to his name becoming synonymous with the Campbell's Soup can paintings.

Warhol subsequently produced a wide variety of art works depicting Campbell's Soup cans during three distinct phases of his career, and he produced other works using a variety of images from the world of commerce and mass media. Today, the Campbell's Soup cans theme is generally used in reference to the original set of paintings as well as the later Warhol drawings and paintings depicting Campbell's Soup cans. Because of the eventual popularity of the entire series of similarly themed works, Warhol's reputation grew to the point where he was not only the most-renowned American pop art artist, but also the highest-priced living American artist.

Pop art

In 1960, Warhol began producing his first canvases, which he based on comic strip subjects. In late 1961, he learned the process of silkscreening from Floriano Vecchi, who had run the Tiber Press since 1953. Though the process generally begins with a stencil drawing, it often evolves from a blown up photograph which is then transferred with glue onto silk. In either case, one needs to produce a glue-based version of a positive two-dimensional image (positive means that open spaces are left where the paint will appear). Usually, the ink is rolled across the medium so that it passes through the silk and not the glue. Campbell’s Soup cans were among Warhol's first silkscreen productions; the first were U.S. dollar bills. The pieces were made from stencils; one for each color. Warhol did not begin to convert photographs to silkscreens until after the original series of Campbell’s Soup cans had been produced.

Although Warhol had produced silkscreens of comic strips and of other pop art subjects, he supposedly relegated himself to soup cans as a subject at the time to avoid competing with the more finished style of comics by Roy Lichtenstein. In fact, he once said "I've got to do something that really will have a lot of impact that will be different enough from Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, that will be very personal, that won't look like I'm doing exactly what they're doing." In February 1962, Lichtenstein displayed at a sold-out exhibition of cartoon pictures at Leo Castelli's eponymous Leo Castelli Gallery, ending the possibility of Warhol exhibiting his own cartoon paintings. In fact, Castelli had visited Warhol's gallery in 1961 and said that the work he saw there was too similar to Lichtenstein's, although Warhol's and Lichtenstein’s comic artwork differed in subject and techniques (e.g., Warhol’s comic-strip figures were humorous pop culture caricatures such as Popeye, while Lichtenstein’s were generally of stereotypical hero and heroines, inspired by comic strips devoted to adventure and romance). Castelli chose not to represent both artists at that time, but he would, in 1964, exhibit Warhol works such as reproductions of Campbell's Tomato Juice Box, 1964, and Brillo Soap Boxes. He would again exhibit Warhol's work in 1966. Lichtenstein's 1962 show was quickly followed by Wayne Thiebaud’s April 17, 1962 one man show at the Allan Stone Gallery featuring all-American foods, which agitated Warhol as he felt it jeopardized his own food-related soup can works. Warhol was considering returning to the Bodley gallery, but the Bodley's director did not like his pop art works. In 1961, Warhol was offered a three-man show by Allan Stone at the latter's 18 East 82nd Street Gallery with Rosenquist and Robert Indiana, but all three were insulted by this proposition.

Irving Blum was the first dealer to show Warhol’s soup can paintings. Blum happened to be visiting Warhol in May 1962, at a time when Warhol was being featured in a May 11, 1962 Time Magazine article "The Slice-of-Cake School" (that included a portion of Warhol's silkscreened 200 One Dollar Bills), along with Lichtenstein, Rosenquist, and Wayne Thiebaud. Warhol was the only artist whose photograph actually appeared in the article, which is indicative of his knack for manipulating the mass media. Blum saw dozens of Campbell’s Soup can variations, including a grid of One-Hundred Soup Cans that day. Blum was shocked that Warhol had no gallery arrangement and offered him a July show at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. This would be Warhol’s first one man show of his pop art. Warhol was assured by Blum that the newly founded Artforum magazine, which had an office above the gallery, would cover the show. Not only was the show Warhol's first solo gallery exhibit, but it was considered to be the West Coast premiere of pop art. Andy Warhol's first New York solo Pop exhibit was hosted at Eleanor Ward's Stable Gallery November 6–24, 1962. The exhibit included the works Marilyn Diptych, 100 Soup Cans, 100 Coke Bottles, and 100 Dollar Bills.






Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Campbell's Soup Cans" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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