Art Through Time: A Global View
Portraits Art: Diane von Furstenberg
Pop artist Andy Warhol lived a glamorous life full of parties and glitterati.
He constantly encountered famous actors, singers, writers, and fashion designers and was an integral part of their social circles. In the early 1960s, he began his fine art career creating silkscreen paintings of mundane consumer products, such as Campbell’s soup cans and Brillo boxes, on the one hand and legendary celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, on the other. Silkscreen is a mechanical process, which allowed Warhol to print multiple identical copies of a photograph or newspaper clipping. The technique challenged traditional values of originality and artistic touch and helped Warhol cultivate his own identity as an icon of cool detachment.
Eager to associate themselves with Andy and his taste-making art, members of the society “in-crowd” were delighted to have their portraits done by him. Warhol, in turn, applied all of his considerable business sense to securing commissions. His working process involved taking Polaroid photos of his subjects until he got just the right shot. That image was then converted into a silkscreen. Using the same screens, Warhol could produce multiple versions of the same image, changing out the color of hair, facial features, clothing, or background. If a subject had physical flaws, the artist had no interest in exposing them. He produced sleek images that flattered his clients, who often bought more than one copy.
Diane von Furstenberg is characteristic of Warhol’s portraits from the 1970s and 1980s. The portrait shows von Furstenberg in three-quarter view with a shock of black hair framing her perfectly flat, colorless face. Warhol liked to work with very high contrast photos that emphasized this kind of play between light and dark. Von Furstenberg’s eyes and lips are added on top as discrete shapes of bright color, complemented by a solid red background.
David Patrick Columbia, Editor, newyorksocialdiary.com
“Warhol lived in the era of the photograph. So Warhol did these photographic portraits that were silk-screened and turned into “paintings.” And it was a business that he was in, and he had a lot of different people who would go out and meet Mr. and Mrs. Got Rocks and say, ‘You know, you really ought to have a portrait done by Andy. He’d love to paint you.’ And they’d say, ‘Oh really,’ and so they think, ‘Well that’s good because it’s very groovy to be painted by Andy Warhol because he’s a very hot commodity.’ That’s actually what always happened in portraits a long time ago. That’s when they hired Gainsborough, they hired Constable, when they hired Van Dyck to do the portrait—it was because he was a hot commodity for portraits. It wasn’t just the way they look, ‘cause they knew they were going to look great because he wasn’t going to make them look terrible. Because they wouldn’t do that. But also, they worship at the feet of a lot of these artists. And so they want to be connected to it. Andy Warhol said, ‘The business of art is business.’ And actually, it was always so. Because these guys had to eat.”
Baume, Nicholas, and Peter C. Sutton, eds. About Face: Andy Warhol Portraits. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press in association with the Wadsworth Atheneum and the Andy Warhol Museum, 1999.
Clemente, Francesco. Andy Warhol: Polaroids, Celebrities and Self-Portraits. Berlin: Jablonka Galerie, 2001.
Shafrazi, Tony, Carter Ratcliff, and Robert Rosenblum. Andy Warhol Portraits.London: Phaidon, 2009.
Warhol, Andy, Henry Geldzahler, and Robert Rosenblum. Andy Warhol: Portraits of the Seventies and Eighties. London: Thames & Hudson, 1993.