Happy Rockefeller

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  • Provenance

    Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, New York

  • Literature

    G. Frei and N. Printz, The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné Vol. 2B: Paintings and Sculpture 1964-1969, Phaidon, 2002, cat. 2059 - 2083, pp. 384 - 385, p. 384 (installation illustrated), p. 366 (installation illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay


    “I wasn`t born a Rockefeller. I just happened to marry one. I`ve had the best of both worlds. It`s like living on both sides of the tracks.” Happy Rockefeller, 1985

    A modern court painter for the American elite, Andy Warhol created images that had the dual ability to pander to ego, while conveying Warhol’s more nuanced treatment of subject. Like his silkscreened images of mass production, which simultaneously paralleled and juxtaposed the realities of American consumer culture, Warhol’s portraits were produced in a similar manner. In the 1980s the artist’s 40 x 40 inch square portraits were emblematic of his famous Factory process—streamlined and efficient. After taking a Polaroid of the sitter, the image would be transferred to silkscreen before it was finally painted on canvas. The evident symbiosis between artist and subject echoed the age-old relationship between artist and patron. Warhol immortalized the industrialist, socialite, and celebrity, transforming them into immortal icons. The income from these 40 x 40 portraits helped underwrite the publication of Warhol’s pet project, the now-celebrated Interview magazine.

    However, distinction should be made between these later portraits and Happy Rockefeller. Unlike these later commissioned works, this 1968 portrait of Happy Rockefeller, the wife of Nelson A. Rockefeller, is more than just a portrait of a woman from a press image; it is a record of a place in time and the larger issues pervading the American mind. Like Warhol’s images of Marilyn or Jackie, Happy Rockefeller is a probing look into the complex challenges facing women in the public eye. Their loss, sadness and joys all became a collective experience. Comprised of thirty individual canvases of Mrs. Rockefeller, articulated in a stereotypically feminine pink, this lot is not a simple portrait of a socialite—just as Happy herself was not a simple woman.

    Born Margaretta Large Fitler in 1926, Happy Rockefeller was the second wife of the New York governor and eventual vice president Nelson Rockefeller. She was given the name “Happy” as a girl for her cheery and outgoing disposition, her marriage to Nelson in 1963 was highly controversial: both had divorced their respective partners in order to remarry the other and each had numerous children from their first marriages. Nelson left his wife of 31 years to marry Happy who was 18 years his junior. Happy and Nelson’s marriage inevitably had a disastrous impact on Nelson Rockefeller’s political career and his bid for the presidency. The wedding squashed his dreams as the forerunner for the 1964 Presidential Elections and caused him intense scrutiny from the press and his political contemporaries. The New York Times famously stated in response to the marriage "The rapidity of it all—he gets a divorce, she gets a divorce—and the indication of the break-up of two homes. Our country doesn't like broken homes. (“Many in G.O.P. Say Marriage Will Hurt Rockefeller in 1964", The New York Times, May 3, 1963, p. 17)

    Painted five years after this controversial marriage and while Warhol was recovering from his attempted murder in June, 1968 he returned to work with the commission of a multiple portrait series of “Happy” Rockefeller. His portrait of Nelson Rockefeller has already been completed by Warhol in late 1967. Happy Rockefeller, 1968, with its effusive pinks and reds, is an explosion of color—bold, yet conventional. The colors of girlhood and womanhood, Warhol’s choice is a sly and playful pairing with the image of Happy pulled from a news clipping. The present lot, comprised of thirty, 7 x 6 in. stretched canvases, projects Warhol’s “magenta screen print over a hand-painted pink background… the mixtures of acra violet, napthol crimson, and white paint carried, the surface becomes activated, suggesting different exposures of light and optical shifts. (G. Frei and N. Printz, The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné Vol. 2B: Paintings and Sculpture 1964-1969, Phaidon, 2002, p. 367) The wavering variances of placement and pigment echoes across the small canvases, gridded in order to form a quilted mosaic of Happy. Her youthful smile, leaning forward in pure excitement is distinctly different from the portrait of her husband. Nelson Rockefeller’s commanding, stern look in the midst of speaking to the public into a microphone emphasizes his political standing while Happy is seen captured in a youthful glow of both girlhood and motherhood. Her luminous presence and pure joy captures the way in which her life was lived. “`I absolutely adored him,’ says Happy Rockefeller quietly. ``I`d do it all over again--only faster.’” (K. Larkin, “Happy`s Home Is A Museum Of Memories,” Chicago Tribune, November 25, 1985)

  • Artist Bio

    Andy Warhol

    American • 1928 - 1987

    Andy Warhol was the leading exponent of the Pop Art movement in the U.S. in the 1960s. Following an early career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol achieved fame with his revolutionary series of silkscreened prints and paintings of familiar objects, such as Campbell's soup tins, and celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe. Obsessed with popular culture, celebrity and advertising, Warhol created his slick, seemingly mass-produced images of everyday subject matter from his famed Factory studio in New York City. His use of mechanical methods of reproduction, notably the commercial technique of silk screening, wholly revolutionized art-making.

    Working as an artist, but also director and producer, Warhol produced a number of avant-garde films in addition to managing the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground and founding Interview magazine. A central figure in the New York art scene until his untimely death in 1987, Warhol was notably also a mentor to such artists as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

     

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25

Happy Rockefeller

1968
synthetic polymer paint, silkscreen ink on linen, in 30 parts
each 7 x 6 in. (17.8 x 15.2 cm)
overall 42 x 30 in. (106.7 x 76.2 cm)

Each painting is stamped with the Estate of Andy Warhol and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., on the reverse; each respectively numbered "PO60.048," "PO60.050," "PO60.051," "PO60.091-098" and "PO60.101-119" on the reverse. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Estate of Andy Warhol.

Estimate
$600,000 - 800,000 

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening

New York Auction 13 November 2014 7pm