Andy Warhol - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Andy Warhol, 'Late Four-Foot Flowers', Lot 17

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 14 October

  • Provenance

    Patricia Caulfield, New York
    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Roger J. Davidson, Toronto
    Jared Sable, Toronto
    Locksley Shea Gallery, Minneapolis
    Acquired from the above by the present owners

  • Exhibited

    Corpus Christi, Art Museum of South Texas, Johns, Stella, Warhol: Works in Series, Inaugural Exhibition, October 4 - November 26, 1972, p. 46 (illustrated, p. 38)

  • Literature

    Rainer Crone, Andy Warhol, Stuttgart, 1970, nos. 586/589, p. 309
    Rainer Crone, Das Bildnerische Werk, Andy Warhols, Berlin, 1976, nos. 939/942, p. 392
    Georg Frei and Neil Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Paintings and Sculptures 1964-1969, vol. 2B, New York, 2004, no. 1981, p. 321 (illustrated, p. 316)

  • Catalogue Essay

    A canonical addition to Miles and Shirley Fiterman’s compendium of Pop Art, Late Four-Foot Flowers is a superb example from Andy Warhol’s Flowers series. One of only five iterations conceived in this impressive four-foot scale, the work is one of the most vibrant Flowers of its size, as it radiates bursts of orange, pink, and mauve. Late Four-Foot Flowers signaled Warhol’s brief return to the subject matter that had brought him great fortune a few years earlier: art dealer Ivan Karp recalled that Warhol’s 1964-1965 Flowers “were totally successful and we sold them all! And you could keep selling them right now! That’s it. That’s one of those immortal images… It was a grand success” (Ivan Karp, quoted in Patrick Smith, Andy Warhol’s Art and Films, Michigan, 1986, p. 358). In their simultaneous embrace of seriality and flatness and betrayal of Pop Art’s propensity for replication through a lack of similitude to their source imagery, Warhol’s Flowers have become iconic relics of postmodernism.

    The inception of the Flowers paintings derived from four photographs of seven hibiscus blossoms that were published in a foldout of the June 1964 issue of Modern Photography. Captured by the magazine’s executive editor, Patricia Caulfield, the images illustrated the myriad visual outcomes possible from varying exposure periods and filter settings; thus, each reproduction possessed subtle tonal distinctions, a striking seriality that no doubt appealed to Warhol’s predilection for repetition and successive imagery. Warhol made substantial alterations to the source picture while adapting it for painting, including cropping it into a square composed of only four large flowers, rotating individual blossoms, and then transferring his new composition to several non-uniformly sized screens. Afterwards, the artist and his studio assistants – known as the Factory – applied continuous, flat planes of paint to the canvas, typically emerald for the stems and a permutation of vibrant shades for the blossoms, before silkscreening the photographic representation, nearly always in pitch black, on top.

    This chapter of Warhol’s production culminated in his first exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery in November 1964, which symbolized a major professional turning point for the artist. His previous attempt at showing with the gallerist in 1961 was rejected, but this solo show gave him the opportunity to share a roster with formidable art world personalities such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Frank Stella. Despite the critical and commercial acclaim garnered by the exhibit, however, the earlier Flowers paintings were also met with intense legal debate: Caulfield sued Warhol in 1966 for copyright infringement, claiming that Warhol made unauthorized use of her photograph and, in turn, it was determined that she was to receive two Flowers paintings by the artist as well as a percentage of proceeds from the Flowers print series. Prompted by the lawsuit, Warhol produced the five Late Four-Foot Flowers in 1967, giving two to Caulfield in order to settle her legal claim to the image—including the present work—both of which she resold through Castelli soon after their completion.

    The polarizing litigation exuded irony as the artist had built his career through appropriating ubiquitous yet patented logos such as Coca-Cola bottles and cans of Campbell's soup; however, judicial issues arose only after his use of a photograph of a garden flower that he heavily altered. In fact, despite the species of Caulfield’s flowers being undoubtedly hibiscus, renowned Pop Art scholar Michael Lobel noted that Warhol’s modifications went so far as to make the blooms ambiguous, and that “in the New York Herald Tribune they were identified as anemones, in the Village Voice as nasturtiums, and in both Arts and Art News as pansies” (Michael Lobel, Andy Warhol: Flowers, exh. cat., Eykyn Maclean, New York, 2012, n.p.). Moreover, during the production of the Flowers paintings, the artist requested his assistant Billy Name-Linich “run the photo repeatedly through the Factory’s new photo stat machine” at least a dozen times because Warhol “didn’t want it to look like a photo at all. He just wanted the shape, the basic outline, of the flowers” (Tony Scherman and David Dalton, Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol, New York, 2009, p. 237). Thus, even more paradoxically, Caulfield’s suit raised the same concerns to the New York art scene – questions of authenticity, reproduction, and image ownership – that had preoccupied Warhol throughout his oeuvre.

    In Late Four-Foot Flowers, Warhol positions himself in the art-historical genealogy of painters of flowers, an age-old aesthetic heritage encompassing both Dutch still-lifes and Claude Monet’s waterlilies. Turning his back on tradition, however, Warhol imbues his Flowers with his idiosyncratic visual language; less interested in portraying a realist or abstract representation of blossoms so much as a modern, mechanical reproduction of a representation of them, Late Four-Foot Flowers carries a decorative, even wallpaper-esque, effect. “Warhol’s flowers are the flowers of the city rather than of the field. Flat and unrealistic, they bring the mind both the plastic and artificial flowers so common in our society...” art critic Paul Bergin elucidated the same year Late Four-Foot Flowers was executed. “They are flower images stripped of their flower-ness, the reduction of the flowers which gape at us from awnings, wallpaper and contemporary centerpieces. Silk-screened onto the canvas, Warhol’s flowers reside there in all their machine-made glory, a valid presentation of the twentieth-century flower…” (Paul Bergin, “Andy Warhol: The Artist as Machine,” Art Journal, vol. 26, no. 4, Summer 1967, p. 360). Indeed, when Warhol first exhibited his Flowers in 1964, he installed rows of the 24-inch canvases edge to edge, using 28 of his Flowers to erect a mural dedicated to technological repetition and seriality.

    Despite its seemingly ebullient subject matter, Late Four-Foot Flowers has attracted myriad funerary interpretations and associations. Indeed, from the Electric Chairs to the Marilyn and Liz works to the later Shadows and Skull series, death and tragedy is a recurrent trope that appears throughout Warhol’s oeuvre. Ironically, curator Henry Geldzahler claimed that the Flowers paintings were triggered by a visit to Warhol’s studio soon after the completion of his Death and Disaster works, during which Geldzahler flipped open Modern Photography to Caulfield’s photograph and quipped “Andy, maybe it’s enough death now…how about this?” (Henry Geldzahler, quoted in unpublished interview with J. Stein, 1973, Geldzahler Papers, Beinecke Library, Yale University). However, the pitch black background of Late Four-Foot Flowers as well as Warhol’s decision to include Jackie Kennedy portraits appropriated from a photograph captured soon after her husband’s assassination in the 1964 Flowers exhibit imply an equally devastating connotation.

    Vibrant yet macabre, distinctive but mechanical, Late Four-Foot Flowers is a remarkable example from a Pop genius equally concerned with reinvention as he was with replication. Despite being an indisputable idol of postmodernism, the work’s execution three years after the success of the artist’s first Flowers is redolent of the practice of the Italian modernist beloved by Warhol, Giorgio de Chirico, who famously produced a series of paintings nearly identical to ones from his critically-acclaimed early metaphysical period during the final chapter of his career. Late Four-Foot Flowers thus harkens back to modernism while embracing the “modern”: all in all, its arresting, conceptually rigorous, and ironically macabre blossoms have garnered the motif a place as one of Pop Art’s most iconic images.

  • 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 Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection


Late Four-Foot Flowers

acrylic, silkscreen ink and graphite on canvas
48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm.)
Executed in 1967.

$6,000,000 - 8,000,000 

Sold for $7,430,500

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2019