Andy Warhol Self Portrait 1966 Analysis Essay

Painted Bronze (ale cans) (1960)

Artist: Jasper Johns

Artwork description & Analysis: In this bronze sculpture, Johns intentionally blurs the line between the actual object and its artistic recreation, wherein the handcrafted appearance of the Ballantine Ale cans is only apparent after close inspection. He fashioned the sculpture in response to Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning's boast about art dealer Leo Castelli, "you could give [him] two beer cans and he could sell them." Johns accepted the challenge implicit in De Kooning's statement, casting in bronze two cans of his beer of choice, Ballantine Ale, which Leo Castelli promptly sold. The original beer cans were a deep brass-colored metal, which was ideal for casting in bronze to achieve an effective trompe l'oeil effect. However, in contrast to the authentic appearance of the cast cans, he allowed his brushstrokes to remain visible in the painted labels, creating an imperfection visible only upon careful observation.

Johns cast each can and the base separately and imprinted his thumb in the base as the autographic mark of the artist's hand, ensuring that the work is handmade. Johns cast one can with an open top and painted the Ballantine insignia and the word Florida on its top. The other can is unopened, unmarked, and solidly impenetrable. Some critics read the contrast between the cans as a metaphor for the relationship between Johns and Rauschenberg - an illustration of the differences and the growing space between them. In this reading, the open can serves as a signifier for the gregarious and popular Rauschenberg who began spending much of his time in his Florida studio in 1959, while the closed one stands for Johns and his quiet, impenetrable public facade. Other critics read a narrative of everyday life into the difference between the two cans - that everyone lives their lives between the after, or what has already happened embodied by the opened can, and the before, or what has yet to transpire in the closed can. Despite some clues, like the thumbprint, Johns left the final interpretation of the sculpture open to the viewer's discretion. His foray into representing mass-produced goods within the realm of fine art paved the way for Pop art.

Oil on bronze - Museum Ludwig Koln

Self-Portrait (1966) was constructed in what would become one of Warhol’s signature styles—a grid of bright, repeated silkscreened portraits. An expert colorist, Warhol paired primary and secondary colors as well as different shades of the same color.

In the latter part of his career, Warhol focused more and more on portraiture. He created portraits of people he admired—musicians Michael Jackson and Grace Jones, athletes O.J. Simpson and Muhammed Ali—as well as wealthy socialites he met on the New York social circuit. By the mid-1960s, Warhol had amassed a huge public following of artists, filmmakers, performers, writers, and art patrons seduced by his persona. Engaging in the painting of self-portraits only further cultivated his fame. In time, Warhol’s self-portraits became as famous as the iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor. The artist had himself become a celebrity.

Having the character of an icon, i.e., an important and enduring symbol, an object of great attention and devotion.


Something formed or constructed from parts.


A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).


One of three base colors (blue, red, or yellow) that can be combined to make a range of colors.


A distinctive or characteristic manner of expression.


A printing technique in which areas of a silkscreen, comprised of woven mesh stretched on a frame, are selectively blocked off with a non-permeable material (typically a photo-emulsion, paper, or plastic film) to form a stencil, which is a negative of the image to be printed. Ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface with a squeegee, creating a positive image.


A representation of oneself made by oneself.


A representation of a particular individual.


The perceived hue of an object, produced by the manner in which it reflects or emits light into the eye. Also, a substance, such as a dye, pigment, or paint, that imparts a hue.


Andy Warhol, Auteur of the Ordinary
Warhol began to make films in 1963. His subjects were often unscripted ordinary events—a man getting a haircut (Haircut), a man sleeping (Sleep), a person eating a mushroom (Eat), or two people kissing. He also filmed Screen Tests (1964–66), portraits of friends who were instructed to sit as still as possible while the camera rolled. Warhol, too, was no stranger to the camera and was photographed often by his friends, the press, and documentary filmmakers.


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