Table of contents:
- What do the soup pictures mean?
- How the paintings first saw the light
- Why did the paintings become such a sensation?
Video: Why 32 paintings by Andy Warhol, in which only soup cans were painted, became an art sensation
2023 Author: Richard Flannagan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-24 13:10
July 9, 1962 little-known artist Andy Warhol opened a small exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. The theme of the exhibition just blew my mind: it was cans of soup! Each of the thirty-two paintings depicts the different flavors and aromas of Campbell's soups, ranging from tomato to pepper to celery cream. What meaning did the artist put into these works? What is the secret to sensational success and universal recognition?
For Warhol, then thirty-four years old, this was the first solo painting exhibition. By then, he had been a leading commercial artist for nearly a decade, working with business empires such as Tiffany & Co. and Dior. Andy was determined to become a "real" artist, recognized by museums and critics. His secret weapon? The emerging style of "pop art".
What do the soup pictures mean?
Pop art turned traditional art upside down. Instead of portraits, landscapes, battle scenes, or other objects that experts considered “art,” artists such as Warhol took images from advertisements, comics, and other elements of popular culture. They used humor and irony to comment on how mass production and consumerism came to dominate American (and non-American) life and culture.
Abstract artists of the 1950s such as Jackson Pollock could glorify themselves as creative, individualistic geniuses. The artists of the 1960s took the opposite approach. They tried to smooth out or eliminate all traces of their own artistic processes - for example, brush strokes. They always tried to make their work feel almost mechanical, like the mass-produced item she portrayed. Almost.
To paint the Campbell's Soup Can, Warhol projected the soup can onto his blank canvas, outlined the outline and details, and then carefully filled it in using brushes and paints. For consistency, he used a hand stamp to draw a heraldic pattern around the bottom edge of each label, but it didn't always work out right. Small details - tiny spots of red in the painting Tomato Soup, the irregularly stamped heraldic lily on others - betrayed the handcrafted origin of the paintings. Using visual art techniques to depict everyday objects, Warhol caught a significant controversy in pop art. While they were supposed to look like they were made mechanically, each painting was slightly different - and not just the label.
There is one thing in common that all thirty-two paintings have in common. Rather than detailing the intricate medallion at the center of each can's label, representing the "gold medal for quality" that Campbell's soup won at the 1900 Paris Exhibition, Warhol replaced it with a simple gold circle. Warhol's biographer Blake Gopnik thought about it this way: “Is it just because other paints don't hold well on gold? Or is it because it takes too much effort to get real medals? Or maybe he just liked the graphic stamp of the golden circle?"
The graphic effect and atmosphere of nostalgia may be two reasons why Warhol chose the Campbell line of products as his pop icon. The label's classic design has changed little since its debut at the turn of the 20th century. Including the homely cursive "Campbell", which the archivist of the company said was very similar to the signature of founder Joseph Campbell. And Warhol himself grew up on Campbell's soup. “I ate it. The same lunch for twenty years,”he said.
How the paintings first saw the light
When the Warhol Exhibition opened in 1962, pop culture was in its infancy. People had no idea what to do with art, which was so different from anything art was supposed to be.
First, Irving Blum, one of the owners of the Ferus gallery, decided to display the paintings on narrow shelves along the length of the gallery, like in a supermarket aisle. “Banks are on the shelves,” he later said of his installation. Why not?
The show did not make the splash that Blum and Warhol had hoped for. In fact, the little response that was received from the public or art critics was quite harsh. "This young 'artist' is either a dull-headed fool or a stubborn charlatan," wrote one critic. A cartoon in the Los Angeles Times pokes fun at the paintings and their intended audience. “Frankly, asparagus cream doesn't work for me,” one art lover says to another, standing in a gallery. "But the horrific richness of the chicken noodles gives me a genuine sense of zen." The art dealer next to the Ferus Gallery was even sharper. He laid out real cans of Campbell's soup in his window, along with the caption: “Don't be fooled. Get the original. Our lowest price is two for 33 cents."
Despite all this, Blum managed to sell five paintings - mostly to friends, including actor Dennis Hopper. But even before the show closed, he suddenly changed his mind. Realizing that paintings were best suited for a complete set, Blum bought out the ones he sold. He agreed to pay Warhol $ 1,000 for everything. Warhol was delighted - he always thought of Campbell's Soup Cans as a set. For both the artist and the dealer, this decision was a "tricky" move that paid off in the future.
Why did the paintings become such a sensation?
Once the shock was overcome by the public and critics, they began to ripen to Warhol's cans. First, it was a fresh idea in art. How difficult is it to understand a painting if the original is probably on the kitchen shelf? Critics began to notice the sly, ironic humor in Warhol's "portraits" of Scotch Broth and Chicken Gumbo. And Blum's decision to keep the paintings together increased their influence.
The exhibition at the Ferus Gallery marked a turning point in Warhol's career. After Campbell's Soup Cans, Warhol switched from drawing to silk-screening, a process that produced more mechanical results and allowed him to create multiple versions of the same work. His reputation continued to grow. By 1964, the asking price for one soup can painting that was missing from Blum's set had risen to $ 1,500, and New York socialites wore soup can print paper dresses custom made by Warhol himself.
Campbell's Soups itself soon joined in the fun. In the late 1960s, the company seized on the then popular fancy of paper dresses with a Souper Dress and a small purse covered in Warhol-style soup labels. Each dress had three gold stripes at the bottom, so the wearer could cut the dress to the perfect length without cutting the can pattern. Price: $ 1 and two Campbell's Soup labels.
Today, Warhol's soup cans remain a pop culture icon, from plates and mugs to ties, T-shirts, surfboards and skateboard decks. One of the most striking photographs involved Warhol himself: on the cover of Esquire magazine in May 1969, he was drowning in a can of Campbell's tomato soup.
In the end, Warhol's cans were recognized by the Museum of Modern Art as worthy of being called art. In 1996, the museum bought all thirty-two paintings from Irving Blum for a cosmic $ 15 million - a stunning return on his $ 1,000 investment in 1962. Even the Souper Dress has been declared a classic. In 1995, a year before the paintings arrived at the Museum of Modern Art, they entered the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Art makes us stop and think, but what did the artist really want to say? It often happens that it simply strikes us in the very heart, arousing admiration for the skill of the creator of the masterpiece. Read our article what is the secret of the "cunning" frescoes of the 17th century in the Roman church of St. Ignatius: 3D technologies of the past.