Self-Portrait, 1986
  • © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the

    Visual Arts, Inc. / Adagp, Paris 2015 - Fondation Louis Vuitton / Martin Argyroglo

In 1986 Warhol began his final series of self-portraits which is also his best known, along with the series from 1967.

For an exhibition at the Anthony d’Offay gallery in London, Warhol asked his gallerist to choose the subject. The latter commissioned new self-portraits (the previous one was The Shadow, from 1981). They were shown for the first time in the gallery in July and August 1986. Warhol died a few months later on 22 February 1987. The artist made several versions using different Polaroids, varying the framing, dimensions and colours. He used a palette of deep, aggressive tones (yellow, red, purple, green, blue) which he contrasted with a monochrome black background. Unlike his bust portraits, Warhol does not reveal his neck or shoulders in these; only his face appears in close-up, occupying the entire canvas. He looks straight out, his disembodied face apparently floating like a death mask. Warhol wears a wig of tousled, silver hair, nicknamed the “fright wig”. This unnatural looking mane gives him a ghostly air. The artist’s gaze is absent, focused on the lens, and his expression is both meditative and intense, a combination of despair and anxiety. The purple colour accentuates the tragic aspect, and the large scale of the piece enhances its dramatic impact.