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  • Provenance

    Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York; Gagosian Gallery, New York; Private collection, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    Details of Renaissance Paintings (Paolo Uccello, St. George and the Dragon, 1460) indicates the status of the artistic evolution of AndyWarhol in the last decade of his life.The present lot serves as a critique of the art historical movements of the 1980s and exemplifies a contemporary artist paying homage to his predecessors. The linear history of art is exposed in the prevalent contrast of styles and references.
    Born Andrew Warhola in 1928, he was the third son of two Slovakian immigrants. Arriving in 1929, the young boy faced a deprived and difficult early childhood in the midst of the Great Depression. Like most Americans, the family’s financial status eventually improved; and in 1945 Warhol was able to pursue commercial design courses at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). Hesitant to commence studies in the manner of their proper assignments, Warhol retained a personal intellectual agenda. He left the same as he entered. claimed Sidney Simon, a fellow classmate. They couldn’t teach him anything and he couldn’t learn anything. He had his own style and direction from the beginning (D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 21). Warhol was unclear of his career path throughout his years at university, even hinting at teaching art at the high school level. It was not until his stint as a department store employee, during his junior and senior years of Carnegie Tech, that he became aware of his admiration of magazines and fashion.
    Shortly after, in 1949,Warhol moved to NewYork City.Within a week of presenting his work of commercial illustration to magazine art directors, he received significant assignments and commissions. Employers included media giants such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, andThe New Yorker. An early commission from Glamour magazine called for a series of whimsical drawings of shoes. During the printing process, the “a” of the artist’s last name was accidentally omitted from the credit line. It was here that the artist would become publicly known as Andy Warhol.
    Considered among the most highly sought after women’s accessories illustrators in NewYork,Warhol’s instantly recognizable drawings appeared in nearly every major fashion magazine.With the help of a hired assistant, Warhol began experimenting with multiple ways of reproducing his drawings. The duo created improvisational printing techniques, utilizing tools such as hand-carved art-gum erasers and balsa wood blocks.These processes of duplicating images were driving forces in the art movement synonymous with Warhol.
    The late 1950s showed the peak of the previously dominated generation of Abstract Expressionist artists. As a fine artist, AndyWarhol was alienated from the movement with his representational imagery; artists such asJackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline received international status as masters.The end of the decade saw the entrance of second-generation Abstract Expressionist painters – such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.Warhol became aware of Rauschenberg and Johns as they were all three working for the same luxury retail store designing window displays. A collage of both a gestural, expressionistic brush mark and the borrowing of imagery and objects of everyday life would in effect usher in the coming movement of Pop Art.
    Its ability to create memorable totemistic images and an awareness of generative forces in society give it the importance that it holds in the development of modern art. It is not simply that it portrayed popular icons, such as Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, or popular ephemera, such as Lichtenstein’s enlarged strip cartoon images, but that these images were so easily acceptable as appropriate to the way we live now that they refocused society back on its own values to a degree that no traditional forms of painting could have done.                                           T. Copplestone, The Life and Works of Andy Warhol, NewYork, 1994, p. 7
    Pop art attempted to democratize art. Illustrations of common imagery extended an understanding of art to the masses, not just the educated elite. Contextualization of the work allowed for deeper importance of the piece – the image stood as exactly what it appeared to be. “It is the factor of focus, and not the common artifacts used, that gives Pop, and particularly the work ofWarhol, its significance” (Ibid). In response to comments on his position as the father of Pop Art,Warhol wrote, “Pop art has more fathers than Shirley Temple had in her movies. I don’t want to know who the father of this movement is. In those movies, I was so disappointed whenever Shirley found her father. It ruined everything. She had been having such a good times, tap dancing with the local Kiwanis Club or the newspaper men in the city room” (K. Goldsmith, I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews, NewYork, 2004, p.13).
    Criticized for its veneration of the commodities market, Pop Art rose into full force in the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s (the movement was prevalent in Britain in the 1950s). Frequent in production was the complete elimination of the hand of the artist – an illusionWarhol carried out with ease due to his experience in the commercial art world. Such ability marked a final evasion from Abstract Expressionism. A benefit for Andy Warhol in the new technique that seemed to perfectly befit his cool subdued personality was the fact he did not have to personally conduct the actual printing. He would often employ assistants to print for him, he said, “I tried doing them by hand, but I find it easier to use a screen.This way I don’t have to work on my objects at all. One of my assistants, or anyone else for that matter, can reproduce the design as well as I could” (K. Honnef, Warhol, Cologne, 2000, p. 54). Silk-screening photographs applied the same immediacy of viewing as photography, yet a special application of silk-screen made for lasting impressions. In line with modern machinery techniques of the time, works were produced multiple times – yet one never exact to the previous. As quoted by John Cage, “Warhol has shown through repetition that there is no repetition in art” (J. Schellmann, Andy Warhol: Art from Art, NewYork, 1994, p. 9). The present lot, Details of Renaissance Paintings (Paolo Uccello, St. George and the Dragon, 1460), exemplifies the printing technique while concurrently forecasting the 1980s resurgent focus on the medium of painting – while the formal imagery alluded homage to the predecessors of the Pop artist.
    A Renaissance Florentine painter, Paolo Uccello depicts in his St. George and the Dragon a Christian legend of love, a tale of the damsel in distress. A dragon has stolen a princess; the princess charms the dragon and physically restrains him with her belt yet she is unable to escape the danger. The noble Saint George, the patron Saint of England, comes to her rescue and slays the dragon. The allegorical composition is rendered with extreme attention to composition. The line made by the dragon’s wing and leg angle in the same direction as St. George’s spear while the body and tail travel in the opposite direction. In a case in which the canvas is composed with an emphasis on geometry, each portion of the composition relates to the next, therefore the sum of the individual factors create the resolved whole. Renaissance artists, especially in Italy, deduced mathematics from surrounding natural phenomena to create compositions. Scholars sought to justify the phenomena with integral arithmetic numbers. Ratios were an important part of the Renaissance intellectual tradition, for example, such as the Golden Section. Many scholars sought parallels between music and visual arts (notably Alberti). Painters and architects adapted ratios in whole numbers that determined intervals of tones in musical instruments. These proportions – the diapson, diapente and diatessaron – created musical harmonies that Renaissance artists strived to translate visually in their work. Warhol deconstructs such reasoning and crops imagery of the head of the princess and the wing and tail of the dragon.The resulting composition is the contemporary counterpart to that of Uccello’s original.
    Executed in 1984, Details of Renaissance Paintings (Paolo Uccello, St. George and the Dragon, 1460) presents paint handling and a color palette evocative of the late 1970s to mid 1980s Neo-Expressionist movement of painters. The current lot boasts Warhol’s signature medium of the silkscreen – metaphoric for commodity and the illusion of memory – while also presenting a painterly hand in the suggestion of brushwork. Details of Renaissance Paintings (Paolo Uccello, St. George and the Dragon, 1460) is composed upon progressions in the history of art spanning multiple centuries.

  • Artist Biography

    Andy Warhol

    American • 1928 - 1987

    Known as the “King of Pop,” Andy Warhol was the leading face of the Pop Art movement in the United States 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 like Campbell's soup tins, and celebrities like 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 a mentor to such artists as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

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Details of Renaissance Paintings (Paolo Uccello, St. George and the Dragon, 1460)


Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas.

48 x 72 in. (121.9 x 182.9 cm).
Stamped with the Estate and Foundation seals and numbered “PA 36.004” and "A125.072" on the overlap.

$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $542,500

Contemporary Art Part I

13 Nov 2008, 7pm
New York