• 1986
  • Andy Warhol
  • Acrylic paint and silkscreen ink on canvas
  • 274,3 x 274,3 cm
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.

#warholfoundation - © 2021 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by ADAGP,Paris 2021. Used with permission of @warholfoundation


Andy Warhol

A key figure in Pop Art, Andy Warhol created a character who, investing in cinema, television screens, gay and underground culture, propelled him to the rank of a social icon.

Initially a fashion illustrator, he turned to painting at the end of the 1950s, taking his subjects from the press, comic strips and advertising. In 1962 he began screen-printing, resulting in his Campbell’s Soup series and portraits of the stars (Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Elisabeth Taylor), endlessly reproducing the same images. These reflect the collective imagination of consumer society, while other series featuring criminals, accidents, electric chairs or Jackie Kennedy in mourning reveal an idealised America shot through with violence, sex and death. In 1964 Warhol opened The Factory, a studio where he produced his paintings and films, a legendary creative space that attracted artists, poets, actors, muses, musicians and collectors. In 1963 his first self-portraits appeared, as well as his Screen Tests, uninterrupted portrait shots lasting several minutes. Then in the 1970s, and especially the 1980s, came portraits commissioned by celebrities. Made directly in photo booths or using a Polaroid Big Shot, these closely framed portraits show their subjects with a fixed gaze, fragile and "petrified", defining a world that is at once contemporary and timeless.

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