Andy Warhol - Evening & Day Editions London Thursday, June 6, 2024 | Phillips
  • Captivity, loneliness, the monotonous everyday… but also liberation, discovery, and rekindling the joys of life and love: these are the themes running through CBS’s 1985 film Turtle Diary. Penned by the renowned playwright Harold Pinter, this romantic comedy follows two strangers who are both struck by the majestic sea turtles at London Zoo. The pair form an unlikely bond, united by their shared compassion for the turtles and a longing for their freedom. They soon hatch a plan to steal three of the turtles and release them into the ocean. The star-studded cast, including Glenda Jackson, Ben Kingsley, and Michael Gambon, was bolstered by Andy Warhol – a celebrity in his own right – who was commissioned to create a screenprint edition to promote the film. In Turtle, Warhol captured the climactic moment in which the turtles are set free, rendering it in his signature Pop Art aesthetic. In vivid hues of turquoise, blue and pink, the image captures the joy of this momentous scene, as well as evoking wider themes of freedom and the wonder of nature.


    Delighted by the film and the resulting Turtle screenprint, Warhol expressed his gratitude in particular to the film’s director, John Irvin by gifting him the present lot in 1986 in thanks for his role in the commission. No stranger to interpreting the work of great writers, Irvin began his career by directing a number of award-winning documentaries and television works, including the hugely successful BBC adaptation of John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, starring Alec Guinness. For the next thirty years, Irvin made Hollywood feature films including Dogs of War (1980) starring Christopher Walken and Tom Berenger, followed by the horror film Ghost Story (1981) starring Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and John Houseman; and the biographical Champions (1984) starring John Hurt. Following these serious subject matters, Turtle Diary  gave Irvin the chance to flex his comedic muscles and revel in the joyful storyline of love, freedom and a passionate celebration of the natural world. Irvin’s enthusiasm in directing this story is echoed in the immense success the film enjoyed, and in the exuberant and detailed depiction of the film’s protagonist in Warhol’s saturated, colourful screenprint.


    Poster for Turtle Diary, 1985. Image: Everett Collection Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

    Warhol’s deep-rooted love of nature traces back to his childhood, where he found solace in drawing animals, tending to a flower garden and, during university, frequenting the zoo to sketch animals. In adulthood, he purchased large plots of land, including a 15-acre beach in Long Island that has since been gifted to the The Nature Conservancy and is protected as The Andy Warhol Preserve.

    “I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want.”
    —Andy Warhol

    Within the broader spectrum of Andy Warhol's oeuvre, Turtle finds resonance with his Endangered Species series created two years earlier. Similarly to Turtle, in this body of work Warhol turned his iconic pop sensibility toward the natural world, showcasing the lively nobility of ten animals listed in the Endangered Species Act of 1973, such as the African Elephant, Siberian Tiger, and San Francisco Silverspot Butterfly. By placing these animals in the same spotlight he often reserved for celebrities, Warhol helped raise awareness of these endangered animals and raise funds for conservation. His strong affinity for animals is felt in Turtle, which captures the majesty of this ancient sea creature and presents it in its natural habitat, as opposed to captivity.


     Trailer for Turtle Diary, 1985

    • Provenance

      Gifted by Andy Warhol to John Irvin in gratitude for his directing of the film Turtle Diary in 1985

    • Literature

      Frayda Feldman and Jörg Schellmann 360A

    • 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 Collection of John Irvin


Turtle (F. & S. 360A)

Screenprint in colours, on Lenox Museum Board, the full sheet.
S. 79.9 x 99.9 cm (31 1/2 x 39 3/8 in.)
Signed and numbered 6/250 in pencil (there were also 50 artist's proofs), with the artist's copyright inkstamp on the reverse, published by CBS, Inc., Los Angeles, to coincide with the 1985 film Turtle Diary directed by John Irvin and written by Harold Pinter, with an accompanying letter of provenance written by John Irvin, unframed.

Full Cataloguing

£40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for £69,850

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 6 - 7 June 2024