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Andy Warhol

Self portrait no.9

‘If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.’
Andy Warhol

The name Andy Warhol has become synonymous with Pop art, a style of art that emerged in Britain and America in the mid 1950s and culminated in the 1960s. Pop art took its inspiration from popular culture. Warhol’s iconic Pop art works include images of consumer goods such as Campbell’s soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles, and portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe based on media photographs.

Many of Warhol’s early works were hand painted but from 1962 he started making silk-screen prints. Warhol liked the anonymity of silk screen printing, and the fact that it allowed him to mass-produce images –he often repeated the same image many times over. Warhol had many assistants and his studio became known as The Factory.  Experimental music and film were also important activities at The Factory.

Although Warhol was fascinated with celebrity, and became a celebrity himself, he remained a private and mysterious person. These contradictions are evident in Self-portrait no. 9. This is one of a series of self portraits the artist made in 1986 using a photograph of himself wearing a distinctive wig. The size of this work and the strong visual contrast between the face and the background clearly focus attention on the artist’s face. However, the fluorescent camouflage pattern has a concealing effect. Disembodied from the dark background, the face appears mask-like and haunting.

Classroom discussion:

  • What does Self portrait no.9 communicate to you about the artist? What makes you think this?
  • How did Warhol’s working methods, and his role as an artist, differ from the traditional role of an artist?

Reference:
K. Gellatly in T. Gott, L. Benson & contributors, 20th Century Painting and Sculpture in the International Collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, NGV, Melbourne, 2003.