Andy Warhol (1928-1987)


Lot 658. Andy Warhol (USA 1928‑1987). ”Flowers”. Signed and dated Andy Warhol 1964 twice and signed and dated Warhol 64 on the overlap. Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, 20.7 x 20.5 cm.

SEK 1.500.000 – 2.000.000
€ 145.000 – 193.000

Jan Eric Löwenadler (1936‑2010) and Jeanette Bonnier (1934‑2016), Bonlow Gallery, New York.
A Swedish Private Collection, acquired from the above in 1982.

Bonlow Gallery, Sollentuna Art Fair, 1982.

In context:

”The reason I’m painting this way is because I want to be a machine. Whatever I do, and do machine-like, is because it is what I want to do. I think it would be terrific if everybody was alike.”

A quote by Andy Warhol from the catalogue published in 1968 in connection with the exhibition at Moderna Museet in Stockholm. During the summer of 1964 at the end of the gallery season, Andy Warhol was invited to do an exhibition at the prestigious Leo Castelli Gallery in New York. This was a most anticipated commission for the artist who previously had begun his career as a successful commercial illustrator. He preferred to dedicate his gallery exhibitions to a single subject, theme or series, and decided to dedicate the exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery to the flowers. In December, while the Castelli exhibition was on view, Warhol had Flowers screens fabricated in diminishing series.

The pop art-movement challenged the traditional perception of art with the use of the popular mass media and everyday objects. This visualise was brought into the circles of the fine art and it was its experimental form that Warhol adopted. He developed and created a signature style. By reason of his previous background in advertising, he was an early adaptor to innovative techniques of image making, such as the silkscreen printmaking, sometimes using photos as models. The flowers-series began in such a way when he opened a photography magazine called Modern photography and saw a photo by Patricia Caulfield of some hibiscus flowers. This photo was repeatedly printed and he appropriated this photograph when creating his picture of the flowers, also inspired by the repetition that he had seen in the magazine. In his studio, the Factory, he then created flowers in different colours and sizes. The exhibition consisted of nothing but his flowers and the reception was a great success.

In May 1965, he did his first exhibition in Europe at Galerie Ileana Sonnabend in Paris and he continued his series of flowers. Later the same year, he set up another exhibition with smaller canvases including the size 5 x 5 inches (20 x 20 cm) at the Leo Castelli Gallery, and again the walls of the gallery were covered of the flower-paintings, almost giving the impression of a field of flowers. The paintings left the studio in two bulk consignments due to the two different exhibitions, one hundred left in April for Galerie Ileana Sonnabend in Paris and another twenty-five left in May for Leo Castelli. The canvases with flowers that were on view at the Leo Castelli Gallery were all marked with an inventory number LC 635-659. “Flowers” included in this sale is not marked with a Leo Castelli inventory number, indicating that it was instead first exhibited at Galerie Ileana Sonnabend. The sale’s “Flowers” was also exhibited at Bonlow Gallery’s space at the Art Fair in Sollentuna Sweden in 1982, where the present owner acquired it. The famous Swedish art dealers and collectors Jan Eric Löwenadler and Jeanette Bonnier ran Bonlow Gallery between 1980-83 and represented artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jean Michel Basquiat and Jasper Johns. The Bonlow Gallery showed three Andy Warhol paintings in their booth at Sollentuna Art Fair, two “Flowers” (one beige and one white), and one “Jackie Kennedy”. Jan-Eric Löwenadler also exhibited a small red painting by Yves Klein, and Jeanette Bonnier a small dollar bill by Warhol.

Warhol had solved some technical concerns and could work effectively and quickly, almost machine-like, producing more than one hundred paintings in only a few months. To keep the continuity of the series, since he saw it as one group, the flower-paintings from both 1964 and 1965 were signed 64. The flowers show the artist from a softer angle, as the flowers are intimate symbols and signs of the delicacy of life. Although it can also be seen as a provocative series, with associations to the later counterculture of the flower-power, in the age of peace, love and anti-war protest in the 1960’s. But all in all it is a positive, colourful series, and works as a counterpoint to the darker themes that Warhol also worked on during this period. The result was beautiful, decorative and joyful, and above all something completely new, which showed Warhol’s graphic sensibility. Thanks to both the square format and the motif the paintings can be hung in any direction. When exhibited in the galleries, almost as a mural, in its entirety made it the most abstract series of the Warhol paintings in the 1960’s. Although the method of production was machine-like there are subtle variations in the execution of each and every one of the flower-series, which makes every single painting unique. The flowers became a motif that would preoccupy him for the rest of his life. It is also the only subject that he returned to throughout his career, and in almost every medium. He had already in the 1950’s, during his commercial career, drawn some floral images as commercial illustrations. After the silkscreen prints with acrylic, he also made photographs and graphical prints. The successes of his flowers lead to a couple of early exhibitions in Stockholm, such as the one at Moderna Museet in 1968.

Wherein lays the magic with flowers that the painters throughout the history have wanted to capture in their still-lives? Is it the fragility and purity? Often in traditional paintings the subject of something common, like the flower, has been depicted by the painter and transformed into art. This also applies in the pop art philosophy. Andy Warhol is playing with this traditional art historical theme of the flower still life. The flower may be a symbol of the natural cycle of life, the inevitability of death. While commemorating life and death, it awakes both sensual and poetic associations.

Back to lot