Andy Warhol - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Andy Warhol, posed in front of the present work

    Coming directly from the collection of the Warhola family, Andy Warhol’s Nosepicker II is one of likely only three works – a preliminary drawing and two paintings – depicting a young boy with his finger up his nose. Created during his college years at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, the 1948 self-portrait was, as described by James Warhola, the late artist’s nephew, “an auspicious end to his last days in Pittsburgh and the success that was to come soon after.” The present work indeed presents an intimate look into Warhol’s early development as an artist and serves as a precursor to his appropriations of pop culture.


    Depicting himself in a crude position, the present work illustrates Warhol’s playful side. Recognizably a self-portrait, Nosepicker II shows a blond-haired, naked figure picking his bulbous nose, a feature Warhol was subconscious of growing up. Instructed by his teacher at Carnegie Tech, Sam Rosenberg, to rely on direct observation in his paintings, the artist is said to have taken inspiration for the present work from his brother’s young children. The subject matter reflects one of Warhol’s earliest attempts to elevate ‘low’ culture into fine art.

    “Nosepicker 2 was a follow-up self-portrait painting that not only showed Andy in a repulsive act of picking his nose, but carried one step further portraying the artist fully naked. The Nosepicker series of self-portraits left a lasting impression to everyone who had seem them and became the one thing that many of his classmates would never forget for years to come. It was arguably Warhol’s first experience of how art can get a powerful reaction. Thirteen years later Andy Warhol took the world by storm with his controversial Soup Can paintings first shown at the Ferus Gallery in 1962.”
    — James Warhola

    Nosepicker II and its sister painting, Nosepicker I – which sold at Phillips for $491,400 this past November – were created in Warhol’s soon-to-be signature drawing style, rendering the central figure with a blotted-line technique. Applying the ink to paper and using another piece to transfer the still-wet ink onto the work itself, this technique can also be seen as an early iteration of his later silkscreen and printmaking practice. Such early appropriations of images drawn from life would pave the way for Warhol’s career, reflecting the young artist’s future aspirations and alluding to his future success. Best stated by James Warhola, “before there was the soup can, there was the nosepicker.”

    • Provenance

      Bequeathed by the artist to the present owners circa 1950

    • Exhibited

      Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein; Dusseldorf, Stadtische Kunsthalle; Bremen, Kunsthalle; Munich, Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus; Berlin, Haus am Waldsee; Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst; Lucerne, Kunstmuseum, Andy Warhol: Das zeichnerische Werk 1942-1975, 1976, no. 92, pp. 109, 223 (illustrated, p. 109; dated circa 1945)
      Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art, Success is a Job in New York: The Early Art and Business of Andy Warhol, March 14, 1989–September 9, 1990, p. 27
      Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie; London, Tate Modern, Andy Warhol: Retrospective, October 2, 2001–April 1, 2002, no. 3, pp. 15, 62, 306 (illustrated, p. 62; erroneously titled as The Broad Gave Me My Face, But I Can Pick My Own Nose)
      Pittsburgh, The Andy Warhol Museum, February 3, 2010–April 1, 2019 (long term loan)
      Pittsburgh, The Andy Warhol Museum, Andy Warhol: The College Years, August 6, 2010–January 2, 2011
      Pittsburgh, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pearlstein | Warhol | Cantor: from Carnegie Tech to New York, May 30–September 6, 2015, p. 59
      Pittsburgh, The Andy Warhol Museum, My Perfect Body, October 21, 2016–January 22, 2017, p. 73
      Stockbridge, Norman Rockwell Museum, Inventing America: Rockwell + Warhol, June 10–October 29, 2017, pp. 11, 83 (illustrated, p. 11)

    • Literature

      Rainer Crone, Andy Warhol: A Picture Show by the Artist, New York, 1987, no. 92, pp. 111, 272 (illustrated, p. 111; dated 1946)
      Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1989, p. 14 (illustrated)
      Warhol, Le grand monde d'Andy Warhol, exh. cat., Galeries Nationales d'Exposition du Grand Palais, Paris, 2009, fig. 3, p. 26 (illustrated; titled as The Lord Gave me my Face, But I Can Pick My Own Nose (Nose Picker 2))
      David Anfam, ed., Andy Warhol, New York, 2011, pp. 20-21 (illustrated, p. 21; titled as The Broad Gave Me My Face, But I Can Pick My Own Nose)
      Rudo Prekop and Michal Cihlár, Andy Warhol and Czechoslovakia, New York, 2011, p. 71 (illustrated; titled as The Broad Gave Me My Face, But I Can Pick My Own Nose)
      Edward D. Powers, ““All Things That I Didn’t Want to Change Anyway:" Andy Warhol and the Sociology of Difference,” American Art, vol. 26, no. 1, Spring 2012, fig. 6, pp. 55-57 (illustrated, p. 57)
      Joseph D. Ketner II, Andy Warhol, New York, 2013, no. 12, p. 21 (illustrated; titled as The Broad Gave Me My Face, But I Can Pick My Own Nose)
      Bill O’Driscoll, “ArtReview: Body of Work,” Pittsburgh City Paper, vol. 27, issue 2, January 11, 2017, p. 21

    • Artist Biography

      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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Property from the Paul and Anna Warhola Estate


Nosepicker II

tempera, pencil and ink on Masonite
37 x 18 1/8 in. (94 x 46 cm)
Executed in 1948.

Full Cataloguing

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $228,600

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan

Specialist, Head of Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023