Andy Warhol - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Tuesday, November 15, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "I always say, before there was the soup can, there was the Nosepicker I."
    —James Warhola

    As a 20-year-old art student at the end of 1948, Andy Warhol created his first masterpiece. Widely exhibited and contextualized as his first self-portrait, Nosepicker I:Why Pick on Me (The Broad Gave Me My Face But I Can Pick My Own Nose), crudely renders the artist then still known as Andrew Warhola—immediately identifiable by his distinctive blonde hair and bulbous red nose—with a finger jammed up his nostril in a gesture that is at once repulsive and absorbing, playful and intimate. A rare example of a painting by Warhol’s hand, it perhaps evokes the expressive rawness of Jean Dubuffet more than the silkscreened aesthetic of Warhol’s later persona. However, Nosepicker I’s interrogation of reproduction, self-image, and so-called “good” taste epitomize the Warholian themes that already underpinned his revolutionary approach. Indicative of the iconoclastic genius that was to come, this incredible relic of one of the 20th history’s greatest visionaries has remained in the artist’s family until now. 


    Andy Warhol as a student at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, 1947. Image: Philip Pearlstein Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

    According to James Warhola, his nephew, the subject was likely inspired by Warhol's brother's children. “As my father told the story, the little kids were always picking their noses, and my uncle got very perturbed about it,” Warhola recalled. “When he’d see my father, he’d say, ‘Can’t they stop?’”i Unsettled by this memory, Warhol employed the image of a young boy, finger crudely thrust up his nostril, in at least three works—a preliminary drawing and two subsequent paintings—during a particularly formative period in his early artistic development.


    A senior majoring in “pictorial design” at Carnegie Institute of Technology, Warhol had begun to develop a close and heavily influential rapport with one of his instructors, Sam Rosenberg. With a keen interest in direct observation—he was renowned for his Pittsburgh street scenes—Rosenberg introduced Warhol and his classmates to an “intuitive” method of painting, privileging Ben Shahn and Paul Klee as innovators of a unique and liberated pictorial language. These 20th century masters soon became two of Warhol’s most enduring influences; specifically, he was invested in the fluid and expressive contours they used to define images that were at once amusing yet sincere.

    "I paint pictures of myself to remind myself that I’m still around."
    —Andy Warhol

    [left] Paul Klee, Senecio (Baldgreis), 1922, Kunstmuseum Basel. Image: HIP / Art Resource, NY [right] Jean Dubuffet, Léautaud, sorcier peau-rouge (Léautaud, the red-skinned sorcerer), 1946, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

    Following in the spirit of Klee’s pithy maxim—“a dot is a line that went for a walk”—he began executing humor-inflected paintings and drawings that traced his development of a new technique: “blotted-line” transferring. This idiosyncratic process, a version of monotype printing, became Warhol’s first aesthetic trademark and originally stemmed from financial necessity. The youngest child of a working-class immigrant family in Pittsburgh, the artist was obliged to work with the least expensive drawing paper, which caused the ink to run and smear unpredictably. But where others saw difficulty, Warhol saw opportunity: a means of slyly incorporating a form of printmaking into his practice that would echo the distinctive broken contours that Shahn manually produced. “How does he do it?” Ingrid Schaffner, the senior curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, elucidated his process. “Make a drawing in pencil. Go over it in ink, and while the ink is still drying, press down with another piece of paper. Voila: The blotted impression you lift up is the new original.”ii


    As an early iteration of this new technique, Nosepicker I is one of Warhol’s first works in which the act of reproduction figures as an element of the medium itself. Betraying his predilection for seriality, the blotted lines that outline the subject and adorn the decorative background presaged a career later preoccupied with a form of more mechanical repetition: silkscreen printing. This postmodern interrogation of the multiple would also manifest itself in Warhol’s propensity to return to his own image time and time again in an iconic body of self-portraits. Beginning with Nosepicker I and spanning almost four decades, these traced his evolution from Andrew Warhola to rising ‘60s art world star, and then to one of the greatest figures of the 20th century.


    Andy Warhol, Photobooth Self-Portrait, c. 1963, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Soon after completing the work, he gave it a tongue-in-cheek title, The Broad Gave Me My Face, But I Can Pick My Own Nose (occasionally alternatively referred to as the more polite The Lord Gave Me My Face…). He then sent his daring submission to the 39th Annual Exhibition of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh in January 1949, where it greatly impressed one of the jurors: George Grosz, the prominent proponent of Berlin Dada and the New Objectivity movement, who had by then settled in America. However, Grosz and the second juror, who found it unforgivably repulsive, were deadlocked; in the end, it was refused inclusion on the grounds of its supposedly “offensive” subject matter. 

    "You know, people want to see you. Your looks are responsible for a certain part of your fame—they feed the imagination."
    —Andy Warhol

    Undeterred and remaining confident in his first masterwork, Warhol resubmitted it—cleverly retitled Why Pick on Me in a subtle nod to the earlier rejection, intentional or not—to an exclusive summer group exhibition at the Arts and Crafts Center a few months later. Attracting much local attention for its audacious irreverence and formal inventiveness, Nosepicker I enjoyed, as art historian Dieter Koepplin reminisced, “a fine succès de scandale, largely because the stir it had caused had now become public knowledge.”iii


    This story of Nosepicker I’s reception is a fitting metaphor for Warhol’s career, which saw him indefatigably pushing up against the walls of what was possible during his time. Relegated to the ranks of others who were turned away from academic salons for work that was considered too transgressive—Gustave Courbet, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh—Warhol was often ostracized from the mainstream art world for his engagement with commercial or “low” culture. In the end, these rejections only galvanized his success; his critics failed to realize that his main métier was the spectacle itself. 

  • Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1986. Tate Modern, London. Image: Tate, London / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1986, Tate Modern, London. Image: Tate, London / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    The art historian Edward Powers linguistically deconstructed the different forms of “picking” at play in Warhol’s original title, The Broad Gave Me My Face, But I Can Pick My Own Nose. Warhol can “pick” his nose with his finger, he elucidated, as he does in the present work, but he can also “pick” (as in, choose) his own nose, as he did almost a decade later when he pursued rhinoplasty to surgically alter his greatest cosmetic insecurity.iv But in the same spirit he could also “pick” his own life, including one radically different from the stifling conventions of post-war routine—like the turbulent life of fame and glamour his later subjects picked. “His early painting of a nose picker was his first flamboyant self-depiction—here, as an ungainly, single-minded boy giving himself a little pleasure and relief, as if no one were watching, or as if a boy picking his nose were the most natural, riveting, and erotic sight in the world,” Wayne Koestenbaum expressed in his landmark biography of the artist. “So began Warhol's career: he strove to frame solitary bodies picking themselves, redirecting their anatomies with a broad's showy flair.”v


    Listen to the artist’s nephew, James Warhola, tell the history behind Nosepicker I below.


    i Shirley McMarlin, “Andy Warhol's family plans to auction 10 art school paintings,” Tribune-Review, August 9, 2022, online.
    ii Ingrid Schaffner, quoted in Gary Comenas, “Andy Warhol: From Nowhere to Up There,” Warholstars [blog], p. 10.
    iii Dieter Koepplin, quoted in Gary Comenas, “Andy Warhol: From Nowhere to Up There,” Warholstars [blog], p. 10.
    vi  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, pp. 56-58.
    v  Wayne Koestenbaum, Andy Warhol, New York, 2001, p. 32.

    • Provenance

      Bequeathed by the artist to the present owners circa 1950

    • Exhibited

      Pittsburgh, Arts and Crafts Center, Carnegie Institute Senior Show, June 1949
      New York, Grey Art Gallery & Study Center, New York University; Pittsburgh, The Carnegie Museum of Art; Philadelphia, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, "Success is a job in New York…": The Early Art and Business of Andy Warhol, March 14–November 26, 1989, no. 3, p. 75 (dated 1946)
      Paris, Galeries Nationales d'Exposition du Grand Palais, Warhol: Le grand monde d'Andy Warhol, March 16–July 13, 2009, no. 1, pp. 70-71 (illustrated, p. 68)
      Pittsburgh, The Andy Warhol Museum, February 3, 2010–April 1, 2019 (on extended loan)
      Pittsburgh, The Andy Warhol Museum, Andy Warhol: The College Years, August 6, 2010–January 2, 2011
      Pittsburgh, The Warhol Museum, Andy Warhol / Ai Weiwei, June 4–September 11, 2016
      Pittsburgh, The Andy Warhol Museum, My Perfect, Imperfect Body, October 21, 2016–January 22, 2017, p. 11, 13, 73 (illustrated, p. 41)
      Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Andy Warhol Now, December 12, 2020–June 13, 2021 (pp. 47, 212, illustrated, p. 72); then travelled as Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Andy Warhol, July 21–October 24, 2021 (pp. 47, 210, illustrated, p. 72); then travelled as Aspen Art Museum, Andy Warhol: Lifetimes, December 3, 2021–March 27, 2022

    • Literature

      Patrick S. Smith, Andy Warhol's Art and Films, Ann Arbor, 1986, p. 14
      Patrick S. Smith, Warhol: Conversations about the Artist, Ann Arbor, 1988, pp. 1, 6, 16, 31-32
      Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1989, fig. 6, p. 402 (illustrated, p. 403)
      Gary Garrels, ed., The Work of Andy Warhol, Seattle, 1989, p. 5
      Victor Bockris, The Life and Death of Andy Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 47
      Jesse Kornbluth, "Pre-Pop Warhol," Carnegie Magazine, May/June 1989, p. 15
      Renee Lucas Wayne, "'Two Dogs Kissing' By 'Strawberry Jello': Andy Warhol Lives Again in ICA Exhibit," Philadelphia Daily News, October 18, 1989, p. 47
      Sarat Maharaj, "Pop Art's Pharmacies: Kitsch, Consumerist Objects and Signs, The 'Unmentionable,'" Art History, vol. 15, no. 3, September 1992, p. 342
      Eric Shanes, Warhol, London, 1993, pp. 10, 140
      John Yau, In The Realm of Appearances: The Art of Andy Warhol, Hopewell, 1993, p. 115
      Callie Angell, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, 1994, p. 163 (illustrated, p. 164; titled as Why Pick on Me?)
      Barry Paris, "Warhol…Warhol…Warhol," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, vol. 67, no. 281, May 8, 1994, p. 10
      Richard Leiby, "Their Brother's Keeper," The Washington Post, May 15, 1994, p. G6
      Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, The American Eye: Eleven Artists of the Twentieth Century, New York, 1995, p. 91
      Heiner Bastian, Sammlung Marx: Andy Warhol – frühe Zeichnungen, Munich, 1996, pp. 10, 28
      The Warhol Look: Glamour, Style, Fashion, exh. cat., The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, pp. 58, 69 (titled as I Can't Choose My Relatives, But I Can Pick My Nose)
      José María Faerna, ed., Warhol, New York, 1997, p. 7
      Colin MacCabe, Mark Francis and Peter Wollen, eds., Who is Andy Warhol?, London, 1997, p. 98
      Raymond M. Herbenick, Andy Warhol's Religious and Ethnic Roots: The Carpatho-Rusyn Influence on His Art, Lewiston, 1997, pp. 38-39, 57, 86, 89
      Andy Warhol: Drawings, 1942-1987, exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, 1998, p. 20
      Wounds: Between Democracy and Redemption in Contemporary Art, exh. cat., Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 1998, p. 58
      Anne-Marie Tobin, "Warhol's magic strong as ever," Calgary Herald, February 17, 1998, p. E7
      Ingrid Schaffner, The Essential Andy Warhol, New York, 1999, p. 28 (titled as Why Pick on Me?)
      Bob Colacello, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, New York, 2000, pp. 19-20
      Wayne Koestenbaum, Andy Warhol, New York, 2001, p. 31
      Carin T. Ford, Andy Warhol: Pioneer of Pop Art, Berkeley Heights, 2001, p. 27
      Blake Stimson, "Andy Warhol's Red Beard," The Art Bulletin, vol. 83, no. 3, September 2001, p. 546
      Victor Bockris, Warhol: The Biography, New York, 2003, p. 75
      Steven Watson, Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties, New York, 2003, pp. 9, 30
      Edward J. Rielly, The 1960s: American Popular Culture Through History, Westport, 2003, p. 238
      Andy Warhol: Selbstportraits, exh. cat., Kunstverein St. Gallen Kunstmuseum, St. Gallen, 2004, pp. 10, 21
      The Andy Warhol Museum, ed., Andy Warhol: 365 Takes, London, 2004, p. 8
      Kelly M. Cresap, Pop Trickster Fool: Warhol Performs Naivete, Urbana, 2004, pp. 46, 120
      Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, Andy Warhol: Prince of Pop, New York, 2004, pp. 22, 152
      Jerome Satterthwaite and Elizabeth Atkinson, eds., Discourses of Education in the Age of New Imperialism, Sterling, 2005, p. 173
      André Gali, "Andy takes his Warhol off," Nordisk kunsttidsskrift, October 3, 2008, online
      Matt Wrbican and Geralyn Huxley, Andy Warhol Treasures, London, 2009, p. 23
      Mériam Korichi, Andy Warhol, Paris, 2009, n.p.
      Daniela Franco, "Warhol: el Payasito de la Tele," Letras Libres, vol. XI, no. 129, September 2009, p. 98
      Tony Scherman and David Dalton, Andy Warhol: His Controversial Life, Art and Colourful Times, London, 2010, pp. 12-13, 50, 212
      Gary Indiana, Andy Warhol and the Can that Sold the World, New York, 2010, p. 16
      Rudo Prekop and Michal Cihlář, Andy Warhol and Czechoslovakia, Řevnice, 2011, p. 114
      Marie Cordié-Levy, "De l'effet de sidération et de peur dans les autoportraits d'Andy Warhol," E-rea, vol. 8, no. 2, 2011, online
      Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal, exh. cat., ArtScience Museum, Singapore, 2012, p. 123
      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. 5, pp. 55-58, 71-72 (illustrated, p. 56 and on the front cover)
      Joseph D. Ketner II, Andy Warhol, London, 2013, p. 15
      Alice Goldfarb Marquis, The Pop Revolution: The People Who Radically Transformed the World, London, 2013, p. 97
      Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal, exh. cat., Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2014, fig. 9, p. 271 (illustrated, p. 265)
      KZ – KAMPF – KUNST. Boris Lurie: NO!Art, exh. cat., Kölner NSDokumentationszentrum, Cologne, 2014, pp. 111, 113
      Philip Pearlstein, "Watching Warhola Become Warhol," ARTnews, vol. 113, no. 4, April 2014, p. 77
      Cristina Rouvalis, "Andy Warhol, Revealed," Carnegie Magazine, Summer 2014, p. 15
      Pearlstein | Warhol | Cantor: From Pittsburgh to New York, exh. cat., The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, 2015, p. 10
      Deborah Davis, The Trip: Andy Warhol's Plastic Fantastic Cross-Country Adventure, New York, 2015, pp. 31, 258
      Warhol Unlimited, exh. cat., Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, Paris, 2015, no. 5, p. 228 (illustrated, p. 18)
      George Cotkin, Feast of Excess: A Cultural History of the New Sensibility, New York, 2016, p. 177
      Claudia Kalb, Andy Warhol was a Hoarder: Inside the Minds of History's Great Personalities, Washington, D.C., 2016, p. 63
      "Andy Warhol Museum," C-SPAN, September 19, 2016, online (Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, 2016, installation view illustrated, 2:36-3:49; titled as Nosepicker I: Why Pick on Me (The Lord Gave Me My Face But I Can Pick My Own Nose))
      Cristina Rouvalis, "My Perfect Imperfect Body," Carnegie Magazine, Fall 2016, online (illustrated)
      Inventing America: Rockwell + Warhol, exh. cat. The Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, 2017, p. 10
      Alex J. Taylor, "'Andy Warhol: My Perfect Body,'" ARTnews, vol. 116, no. 2, Summer 2017, p. 131
      R.C. Baker, "Thirty Years After His Death, Andy Warhol's Spirit Is Still Very Much Alive," The Village Voice, February 22, 2017, online
      Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2018, fig. C, pp. 17, 19, 32, 67 (illustrated, p. 18)
      John Martin Tilley, "We Need to Talk About Andy," office, May 9, 2019, online
      Stuart Lenig, The Many Lives of Andy Warhol, London, 2021, p. 9
      Stefan Trinks, "Der unbekannte Andy Warhol," Frankfurter Allgemeine, March 10, 2021, online (illustrated)
      Anthony E. Grudin, Like a Little Dog: Andy Warhol's Queer Ecologies, Oakland, 2022, fig. 7, p. 25 (illustrated)

    • 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.


      View More Works

Property from the Paul and Anna Warhola Estate


Nosepicker I: Why Pick on Me (The Broad Gave Me My Face But I Can Pick My Own Nose)

signed with the artist's initials "a.w." on the reverse
tempera and ink on Masonite
30 1/8 x 25 in. (76.5 x 63.5 cm)
Executed in 1948.

Full Cataloguing

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $491,400

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 November 2022