Warhol Illustration Art
HOST: Mention pop art and chances are, one name immediately comes to mind, Andy Warhol. But before the Factory, before his colorful silkscreen portraits of famous people, and before his iconic Campbell's Soup cans helped make him a household name, he was Andy Warhol, commercial illustrator. We decided to look at some of Warhol's earlier works on a visit to the Warhol Museum of Art with expert Alasdair Nichol. Andy Warhol graduated from the Carnegie Institute of Technology here in Pittsburgh in 1949 and then moved to New York, where he worked and was quite prolific as a commercial illustrator before his pop art fame. And the works that we're going to look at today are from those earlier examples of commercial illustration.
That's correct, yes, he was a very successful illustrator in New York. These works date from the 1950s, the mid-1950s. And the one that we see first is a book that he produced in 1954 with the publisher Seymour Berlin, and it's entitled, "25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy." And then beside it is one from a similar book that was obviously broken up. They were created mainly as gifts for people in the business, so these would have been given as gifts to art directors or people involved in the fashion or advertising world. And for example, this one, we see an inscription to George, which is George Klauber, and he was a friend of Warhol's who worked as an assistant to an art director. HOST: The handwriting we see on this book is not Warhol's, is it?
It's not; it's interesting, in fact. Warhol rather liked his mother's handwriting, had this rather loopy eccentric style, and so he had his mother do all the writing. HOST: Which also brings us to the fascination with cats to some degree, doesn't it?
Well, indeed, when they were living on Lexington Avenue in New York, it's believed that they had around about 20 cats living in the home with them. The process is called "offset lithography," and originally they would have been just simple black-and-white prints, but in fact, Warhol held what he called coloring parties and he would gather all his friends together and they would sit down with Dr. Martin's Aniline Dyes, which is a form of watercolor, and color in each of the cats. HOST: How many of these books were made?
Well, that's a little unclear. According to the title page, there were 190 of them done. But the publisher said he thought it was probably closer to 150, but we're not entirely sure how many there actually are. HOST: Some of them are not fully finished or colored, is that correct?
Not all of them are complete, and obviously that would have an effect on the value. A book similar to this, assuming it was in reasonably good condition and all the cats colored in, I would think at present around about $40,000 to $60,000 at auction. However, in years past, I can remember when they've frequently made over $100,000. For a single leaf, such as this one, for example, it wouldn't be much lower than $2,000, but I've seen images like this make $3,000, $4,000, $5,000, $6,000 at auction. And 1955 was the year of the shoe for Warhol. That was the year that he was given the contract as sole illustrator for I. Miller shoes. And so he would create works that were published in the New York Times society pages every week. This is from a portfolio that he did subsequent to that called ¿ la recherche du shoe perdu, a riff on the Marcel Proust book, Remembrance of Things Past. And he did about 16 of them, and again it's an offset lithograph with hand coloring. Something like that at auction is probably going to be in the $6,000 to $10,000 range. Sometimes they make a little more, sometimes a little less. HOST: Well, it is fascinating to see the very early works when he was a commercial illustrator, and I appreciate you sharing it with us.
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