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

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    The present work photographed in the Warhola family living room. Image: Courtesy of the Warhola family


    In 1948, Andy Warhol was still Andrew Warhola: the son of Carpatho-Rusyn emigrants, Pittsburgh native, ardent Byzantine Catholic, child of the Depression, and 21-year-old art school student. He was also a resident of 3252 Dawson Street, where he had been raised with his two brothers, Paul and John, by his working-class parents, Andrej and Julia, and which was his home until he moved to New York in 1949. The $3,200 two-bedroom house was modest, but nonetheless it provided luxuries that before then had been unknown to the Warholas, including a furnace and bathroom with cold and hot running water. 


    It was this Andrew Warhola that captured his family residence in a prodigious watercolor for a university assignment—an incredible relic of one of the most iconic figures of modern art history. Expertly manipulating the textural versatility of the medium to articulate varying shades of red, Living Room depicts the worn and beloved heart of the Warhola residence, adorned with the family’s shabby maroon sofa and armchair, wooden rocking chair, and brick fireplace that Andrej built. Redolent of the exquisitely not-quite-resolved interiors of Pierre Bonnard, Warhol’s expressive submission immediately stood out against those of his classmates—especially Philip Pearlstein’s, which is now held in The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh—that were characterized by a more academic and observation-driven approach. The work, which has remained in the Warhola family until now, is a rare painted example of the 20th century master’s hand, executed before he transitioned to his silkscreen technique and machine aesthetic. 


    Pierre Bonnard, The Dressing Room, 1914. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
    Pierre Bonnard, The Dressing Room, 1914. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

    A major in “pictorial design” at Carnegie Institute of Technology, Warhol spent his junior year consumed by Professor Robert Lepper’s required Individual and Social Analysis course. The spring semester of the class was dedicated to the so-called “Oakland Project,” a half-anthropological, half-visual study of the titular Pittsburgh neighborhood that lay beyond the university’s campus. “Professor Lepper conceived of it as more complex than our simply going into the thoroughfares as artist-reporters, recording everything in sight,” Bennard Perlman, Warhol’s classmate, recalled. “We were to become sociologists and anthropologists [ourselves].”i



    Philip Pearlstein, Art Class, 1946-1947, Collection of the Artist. Artwork: © Philip Pearlstein / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (Left: Andy Warhol; right: Eleanor Simon)

    "Andy did marvelous drawings [in 1948]… Everyone else would be very complicated, but he would just make it so simple, as it was. Everybody was surprised."
    —Philip Pearlstein

    One exercise called for the students—or, as Lepper called them, “pictorial anthropologists”—to visualize a living room for an imaginary Oakland family and elucidate in a supplemental written component how the depicted belongings denoted the unseen characters’ status and traits. Having lived in the working-class neighborhood for almost 15 years, the artist cleverly bent the rules and covertly rendered the Warhola residence for a multigenerational household of six. The family he envisioned bore a thinly veiled resemblance to his own: a European matriarch whose husband is deceased, just like Warhol’s father, lives with her American-born daughter (Warhol did have a sister, but she died at only a few weeks old). The daughter’s truck driver husband, as well as their three children—Warhol also had two siblings—round out the household. 


    The artist’s explanatory essay, typed by Warhol and still affixed to the reverse of the present work, attributes the “foreign” taste of the living room, expressed in the tattered Oriental carpet and lace doilies, to the immigrant mother’s upbringing overseas. The small children are responsible for the mess, manifested by disheveled rugs and wrinkled newspaper; they “play and eat in the living room” and “climb and jump on the furniture.” In a sense, Warhol handed himself a more difficult task than was assigned: to understand not only what his family home and belongings said about himself, but also what they might say about their other owners in a parallel universe. Lepper had meant to demonstrate to his students the ostensible objectivity of social science, but Living Room subtly undermined this premise, betraying that many interpretations can be true at once. 


    The work thus reveals as much about Warhol’s life and childhood as it does that of its hypothetical inhabitants. A focal point of the picture is the tabletop wooden radio in the back right corner of the room—the Warhola family’s first and only radio, spontaneously purchased by Andrej in an uncharacteristic moment of indulgence. This radio was one of Warhol’s first introductions to media and culture: when he was bedridden with St. Vitus’ Dance as a child, he listened along to various programs, including his favorite, The Shadow, a serial detective show whose eponymous character was an enduring figure of the American pulp era. By the 1940s, according to Warhol biographer Victor Bockris, the same radio “had become the family hearth, particularly with the war bulletins and voices of Hitler, Churchill, and Edward R. Murrow coming every night from Europe.”ii


    "Living Room is a startlingly condensed, rich, incredibly well-observed and precociously complicated and bewitching picture that pulls us into its world… it’s an almost indispensable document of where he came from."
    —Jerry Saltz 

    The other focal point of the composition is the crucifix above the mantle, a memento of his father’s death with an evocative impact that is underscored by its intentional inclusion amidst the elimination of much of the Warhola décor. “He left out Mother’s holy pictures,” Paul recalled, “but he put in the cross from Dad’s funeral, on the fireplace where we always kept it.”iii On one hand, the crucifix in Living Room signifies the artist’s religious upbringing, which would resurface in his later appropriation of Christian artworks such as The Last Supper. But for Warhol, as epitomized by the macabre image of Jesus on the cross, religion and death were inextricably linked—two sides of the same coin. When their father passed in 1942, his body was laid out in the living room for three days for mourning, as was customary in the Byzantine Catholic Church. The potential encounter with Andrej’s corpse terrified Warhol, who—then only 13 years old—hid under his bed and refused to emerge from his room until he was given permission to stay with extended family until the funeral. This traumatizing experience was the impetus of the artist’s crippling fear of death, one that would haunt him for the rest of his life and come frighteningly close to fruition when he was shot by radical feminist Valerie Solanas in 1968. 



    Vincent van Gogh, The Bedroom, 1889, The Art Institute of Chicago. Image: The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.417 
    Vincent van Gogh, The Bedroom, 1889, The Art Institute of Chicago. Image: The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.417 


    Likening Living Room to Vincent van Gogh’s The Bedroom (1888), critic Jerry Saltz acclaimed the work’s intimate portrayal of the private space where Warhol’s spent his childhood, calling it an “indispensable document of where he came from.” It is not only an account of his formative years, however, but a harbinger of what was to come. Highlighted in countless museum exhibitions, such as the recent retrospective Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Living Room is a seminal example of Warhol’s signature negotiation of illusion and reality. The false narrative he playfully constructed for a place of deep personal significance to him presages his later unraveling of the glittering face of celebrity and stardom and the turbulent truth that lay behind it. One of the central tenets of his revolutionary approach, which was just becoming visible in Living Room, it was this same interrogation of identity that bridged Andy Warhol the icon and Andrew Warhola the person. 


    i Bennard Perlman, “The Education of Andy Warhol,” in The Andy Warhol Museum: The Inaugural Publication, ed. Callie Angell et al., New York, 1994, p. 161-163.
    ii Victor Bockris, The Life and Death of Andy Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 33.
    iii Paul Warhola, quoted in Bob Colacello, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, New York, 2014, p. 26.
    iv Jerry Saltz, “Andy Warhol in Eight Works,” Vulture, November 8, 2018, online

    • Provenance

      Bequeathed by the artist to the present owners circa 1950

    • Exhibited

      Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein (no. 17, p. 221, illustrated, p. 65; dated circa 1945); Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle; Bremen, Kunsthalle; Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus; Berlin, Haus am Waldsee; Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst; Lucerne, Kunstmuseum, Andy Warhol: Das zeichnerische Werk 1942-1975, February 19, 1976–March 6, 1977
      New York, Grey Art Gallery & Study Center; Pittsburgh, The Carnegie Museum of Art; Philadelphia, Institute of Contemporary Art, “Success is a job in New York…”: The Early Art and Business of Andy Warhol, March 14–November 26, 1989, fig. 27A, no. 1, pp. 28, 75 (illustrated, p. 27; dated circa 1945); then travelled as Jouy-en-Josas, Foundation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Andy Warhol System: Pub – Pop – Rock, Success is a Job in New York, June 14–September 8, 1990
      Pittsburgh, The Andy Warhol Museum, Robert Lepper: Artists and Teacher, August 23, 2002–January 12, 2003
      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 Andy Warhol Museum, Pearlstein | Warhol | Cantor: From Pittsburgh to New York, May 30–September 6, 2015, p. 59 (illustrated, p. 32); then travelled as New York, Betty Cuningham Gallery, Pearlstein | Warhol | Cantor: From Carnegie Tech to New York, December 3, 2015–March 5, 2016
      Stockbridge, The Norman Rockwell Museum, Inventing America: Rockwell + Warhol, June 10–October 29, 2017, p. 83 (illustrated, p. 7)
      New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Art Institute of Chicago, Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again, November 12, 2018–January 26, 2020, pp. 17, 110, 386 (illustrated, p. 111)
      Brooklyn Museum, Andy Warhol: Revelation, November 19, 2021–June 19, 2022

    • Literature

      Rainer Crone, Andy Warhol: A Picture Show by the Artist, New York, 1987, no. 17, p. 268 (illustrated, p. 39; dated circa 1945)
      David Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1989, pl. 7, p. 18 (illustrated, p. 19)
      Callie Angell, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, 1994, p. 162 (illustrated)
      Roberta Smith, "The New Warhol Museum: A Shrine for an Iconoclast," The New York Times, May 26, 1994, p. C18
      Van M. Cagle, Reconstructing Pop/Subculture: Art, Rock, and Andy Warhol, Thousand Oaks, 1995, p. 64 (dated 1946-1947)
      Reva Wolf, "Introduction: A Radio and a Crucifix," Religion and the Arts, vol. 1, no. 1, Fall 1996, fig. 1, pp. 11, 13 (illustrated, p. 10)
      Raymond M. Herbenick, Andy Warhol's Religious and Ethnic Roots: The Carpatho-Rusyn Influence on His Art, Lewiston, 1997, pp. 18, 31
      Jane Daggett Dillenberger, The Religious Art of Andy Warhol, New York, 1998, fig. 5, p. 19 (illustrated)
      Susan Goldman Rubin, Andy Warhol: Pop Art Painter, New York, 2006, pp. 10-11 (illustrated)
      Michael J. Golec, The Brillo Box Archive: Aesthetics, Design, and Art, Hanover, 2008, pp. 92, 94-95
      Matt Wrbican and Geralyn Huxley, Andy Warhol Treasures, London, 2009, p. 8 (illustrated)
      Kurt Shaw, "'College Years' shows Warhol's early work," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 17, 2010, online
      Rudo Prekop and Michal Cihlář, Andy Warhol and Czechoslovakia, Řevnice, 2011, p. 62 (illustrated)
      Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal, exh. cat., Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2014, fig. 8, p. 267 (illustrated, p. 265; dated 1946-1947)
      Barbara Klein, "Before They Were Famous," Carnegie Magazine, Summer 2015, online (illustrated)
      Ed Breslin, "Pearlstein, Warhol, Cantor: From Carnegie Tech to New York," The Brooklyn Rail, February 2016, online
      Catherine D. Anspon, "The Secret Life of Andy Warhol," Paper City Magazine, August 6, 2016, online (illustrated; dated circa 1946-1947)
      Bertrand Rougé, "Warhol, Duchamp, le geste ironique de l'art et le design comme rien. In-différence, inframince et leftover dans Fountain et les Boîtes Brillo," Figures de l'art, no. 34, November 2017, p. 227 (illustrated, p. 226)
      Katherine Atkins and Kelly Kivland, eds., Artists on Andy Warhol: Robert Buck, Glenn Ligon, Jorge Pardo, Kara Walker, James Welling, New York, 2018, p. 43 (illustrated)
      Tim Teeman, "The Whitney Museum’s Andy Warhol Show Is More Than His Greatest Hits," The Daily Beast, November 7, 2018, online
      Jerry Saltz, "This Too Is Andy Warhol, Shunned and Swooned Over: The Story of an American Revolutionary in Eight Works," Vulture, November 8, 2018, online (illustrated)
      Jill Spalding, "Warhol: From A to B and Back Again," studio international, November 14, 2018, online (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2018, installation view illustrated)
      Ariella Budick, "Andy Warhol: social critic, branding wizard," Financial Times, November 16, 2018, online (illustrated)
      Murray Whyte, "Andy Warhol, beyond the limelight," The Boston Globe, December 2, 2018, p. N7
      Kristin Nord, "Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again," Antiques And The Arts Weekly, January 22, 2019, online
      Stephen Metcalf, "Warhol’s Bleak Prophecy," The Atlantic, January/February 2019, online
      "Why Andy Warhol retrospective has special resonance in the Instagram age," PBS News Hour, February 20, 2019, online (illustrated, 1:37-1:41)
      Steve Johnson, "You know less about Andy Warhol than you think," The Chicago Tribune, October 27, 2019, Section 4, p. 8
      Benjamin Secher, "'Ma, Ma, let’s say our prayers...'," The Daily Telegraph, March 7, 2020, p. 4
      Anthea Gerrie, "Review: Warhol at the Tate," Design Curial, July 16, 2020, online
      Andy Warhol, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2020, fig. 3, p. 15 (illustrated, p. 12)
      Andy Warhol...From the Beginning and Back, exh. cat., BWA SOKÓŁ Gallery of Contemporary Art, Nowy Sącz, 2021, p. 22 (illustrated)
      Kame Hame, "The Brooklyn Museum Examines Andy Warhol's Catholic Faith," Widewalls, December 6, 2021, online (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


Living Room

tempera, watercolor, ink, graphite and collage on paper
15 x 19 3/4 in. (38.1 x 50.2 cm)
Executed in 1948, this work is accompanied by the artist's original course assignment text affixed to the reverse.

Full Cataloguing

$250,000 - 450,000 

Sold for $315,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 November 2022