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Andy Warhol and the Influence of Pop Art

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 4 months ago

Andy Warhol & the Influence of Pop Art


With the emergence of Pop Art in the 1960s there is absolutely no doubt of the enormous influence that Andy Warhol had on the era. Through his works and personal interviews Warhol's influence on popular culture as well will begin to surface through ideas of Pop Art. This idea of popular culture in America being represented through Pop Art will be depicted through Warhol's incredibly famous works and in his interview through his personality. The modern idea of popular culture being represented through Pop Art will also be interrelated to the ideas of Levine and Fiske on mass and popular culture








Andy Warhol was born on August 2, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as Andrew Warhola to Andrew and Julia Warhola, who were working-class Hungarian immigrants. He also had two older brothers Paul and John. Warhol was somewhat of a hypochondriac when he was a child and feared hospitals and doctors. When Warhol was thirteen years old his father died in an accident. Warhol at a rather early age showed enormous interest in art and attended the School of Fine Arts at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, which more information can be found at the wikipedia.com site, were he studied commercial art. He moved to New York City in 1949 where he became a successful in magazine illustration and advertising.





Warhol’s work



“It is a biographical fact that Warhol was always mooching for ideas, and there are legendary stories of how he had been set on the right track by such figures as Henry Geldzahler, Emile de Antonio, or Ivan Karp” (12 Feldman and Schellmann). Warhol’s works, like the Campbell’s Soup Can, seemed to Frayda Feldman and Jorg Schellmann in Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonne 1962-1987 as they said, “Greatly as I admired the philosophical energy Warhol released by overthrowing boundaries between art and life, I was unprepared for the boundary between printed and what the post office designates as ‘printed matter’ to be overthrown” (14). This work of the Campbell’s Soup Can to so many people was nothing but an ordinary object that Warhol printed and colored. I think through his work of the Campbell’s Soup Can though Warhol was trying to express that Pop Art was exactly what people thought it was. In 1962 after Warhol showed his Campbell’s Soup Can at theFerus Gallery in Los Angeles, according to Ratcliff, “the local reaction was unfavorable but hardly indifferent. Down the street from the Ferus establishment, another dealer put a stack of actual soup cans on display, with a sign, “Get the real thing for $.29” (26). It was unoriginal and repetitive. It is turning consumers into a "mindless mass" as stated in AMST 3223 class notes and that is almost exactly what Warhol intended to do through his work. He made it repetitive and unoriginal purposely because that is what he found that people wanted. I think that the repetitive Campbell’s Soup Cans also represented different things in the certain rows they were in. Although you can never fully rely on whether he meant what he said in his interview with Art Voices, the interviewer asks, “Question: What do your rows of Campbell soup cans signify? Answer: They’re things I had when I was a child” (5 Goldsmith). In a very strange way his witty answer makes you think that this answer might be true considering his rather unusual childhood. To me the Campbell’s Soup Can also represents something that he knows will attract the consumer which is in the receptiveness. The Campbell’s Soup Can was also according to Feldman and Schellmann another way in which, “Warhol had used this marketing strategy to promote his commercial illustrations, creating offset prints based on his drawings, and then mailing them to current and prospective clients. He infers this in even more playful ways with the two version of Campbell’s Soup Can by screening an image of the soup can directly onto a shopping bag” (23). To me the idea of marketing schemes like the Campbell’s Soup Can shopping bag is one of the creative ways in which Warhol only further set his works apart from many others of the time? I think that it is ingenious to advertise yourself in an everyday way like a shopping bag where there is a probability that hundreds maybe even thousands of people could see it a day. In an interview with his close confidant David Bourdon, Warhol talks of the many times people have compared his Campbell's Soup Can to the Mona Lisa. "You know, people have been comparing my soup cans to the Mona Lisa for so long now. “How can you call this art?" they say. "You can't paint as well as what's-his-name....your model isn’t as pretty to begin with" (11 Goldsmith). I think this interview depicts the almost nonchalant way he goes about comparing his work to that of Picasso Da Vinci in saying how many people compare the Campbell’s Soup Cans to the Mona Lisa. Warhol even tries to pretend he doesn't remember Picasso's Da Vinci's name at one point in the interview. Artlino.com said, “The quintessence of Andy Warhol art was to remove the difference between fine arts and the commercial arts used for magazine illustrations, comic books, record albums or advertising campaigns. I think Warhol knew that is what people wanted although it probably bothered him when he got the reaction to his Los Angeles show. I believe though that he knew Pop Art was what people would want and it actually got him his first show in New York. Warhol’s first New York show came after Emile de Antonio constantly pressured Eleanor Ward to allow him to show at her Stable Gallery. Warhol met Ward with Antonio and after Antonio asked her if she was going to show Warhol or not, “She took out her wallet and looked through the bill compartment. Then she held up a two dollar bill and said, ‘Andy, if you paint me this, I’ll give you a show.’” (26). When Warhol produced the dollar bill painting Ward gave him the show and, “the response to his first New York show was immediate and powerful” (26). I think that the when he did the one dollar bill for Eleanor Ward he knew it was something ordinary that he could in his Warhol way make seem extraordinary and he did which got him the show. I also think that the 80 Two-Dollar Bills which came in the same year of 1962 represented what Warhol had guessed in the beginning which was that the one dollar was impressive and with his own touch of color and repetition it could also become iconic. I think that both the One Dollar and 80 Two-Dollar Bills represent the unoriginal idea that Warhol knew represented Pop Art at is finest. Warhol once expressed his philosophy in one poignant sentence, ‘when you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums.’” This idea that Warhol produced through his paintings is a creative way to look at Warhol’s personality as well. Through his interview style people begin to look at his personality traits of a somewhat haughty, quick witted man. Another famous Warhol work isSixteen Jackies, from 1964. Warhol painted many famous people over the years from Liza Minnelli to Marilyn Monroe to Elizabeth Taylor and Diane von Furstenberg, but Sixteen Jackies was famous because shortly after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 Warhol, “begin his series of Jackie painting, images of the President’s grieving widow, which continued to 1965” (42 Ratcliff). While it is stated that, “as time passed and Warhol felt less disturbed by the assassination, he was able to deal with the subject in a livelier way” but later it is also stated that, “it is nearly impossible to assign an emotional content to the work of this artist, who applies so much energy to detaching himself from his feelings” (46 Ratcliff). I think that this is probably a good example of how Warhol did detach himself from maybe the grief of such a tragic event is to know that it was in the minds of so many other Americans that the idea of the grieving widow portraits would only be infamous. I also feel as though the repetition in Sixteen Jackies also maybe stands for the attention that surrounded her at the time of JFK’s death. I also find what Carter Ratcliff notes on a comment from Gene R. Swenson on Warhol’s Stable exhibition, “He simply likes the people he paints” (28) and I think that this statement is absolutely true because of the precise detail that draws the audiences into the works. In Sixteen Jackies you almost relate to her emotions through the work. Warhol also did of variety of boxes including, Brillo Boxes, which appear in the youtube.com interview with Warhol below. Along with the Brillo Boxes Warhol did, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Heinz Ketchup, Del Monte Vegetables, and Mott’s Apple Juice, “on raw plywood forms the size and shape of cardboard cartons, Warhol had silkscreened these supermarket logos. The boxes stood in casual stacks, as if the gridded repetitions of his painting had found their way into three dimensions” (46 Ratcliff). I found it fascinating how Warhol simply took everyday things in people’s lives and turned them into iconic art that for years would be critiqued and studied 


YouTube plugin error (Andy Warhol giving an interview over Pop Art)


Warhol's personality & thought on Pop Art depicted through interviews



Through interviews with Andy Warhol it is difficult to understand how people even interviewed him at all. In the interview with a small art journal, Art Voices, in December of 1962 a look at the personality of Warhol is available when the interviewer sets the stage, “We visited Warhol in his studio and found the young man to be true original-fey, wry, impossible to engage in serious conversation. He is a lark. We said let us interview you as spokesman for Pop Art, and he said no, let me interview you. We said no, let us interview you. Well, he said, only if I may answer your questions with Yes and No” (4 Goldsmith). Throughout the interview when asked questions like “what is Pop Art?” he would simply say “Yes”. Warhol continues the interview barely answering more than five words at a time and not really allowing a specific response to be given. Even when asked, “question: What is Pop Art trying to say? Answer: I don’t know” (5 Goldsmith). In an interview with a close supporter and confidant, David Bourdon, the reader can see Warhol open up a little more then he did in most other interviews. Bourdon asks Warhol, “A few years ago, Meyer Schapiro wrote that painting and sculptures are the last handmade, personal objects within our culture. Everything else is being mass-produced. He said the object of art, more than ever, was the occasion of spontaneity or intense feeling. It seems to me that your objective is entirely opposite. There is very little that is either personal or spontaneous in your work, hardly anything in fact that testifies to your being present at the creation of your painting. You appear to be a one-man Rubens-workshop, turning out single-handedly the work of a dozen apprentices” Warhol answers Bourdon with a classic answer heard quit frequently from Warhol’s mouth, “But why should I be original? Why can’t I be non-original?” (7). In the interview Bourdon continues on by asking him about possibly being a copyist of ads and why he seems to use enormous scale in certain painting. Bourdon goes on to call Warhol, “a Social Realist in reverse, because you are satirizing the methods of commercial art as well as the American Scene,” Warhol jokes back at his confidant for sounding like the Times man and says that, “I just happen to like ordinary things. When I paint them, I don’t try to make them extraordinary. I just try to paint them ordinary-ordinary” (8 Goldsmith). In a later part of the entire Warhol reiterates his point by saying, “I’m for mechanical art. When I took up silk screening, it was to more fully exploit the preconceived image through the commercial techniques of multiple reproduction” (9 Goldsmith). This is where I begin to see the ideas of Pop Art representing popular culture. For an artist to be purposely producing mass amounts of his work would mean that he meant for nothing more than it to represent a popular culture ideal. In Carter Ratcliff’s book Warhol he says, “Warhol is detached, as well, though it is always risky to impute irony to him or to his images. There is always the chance that he is correct when he says that he and his art are all surface, with nothing hidden underneath” (23). This idea of nothing being hidden underneath his work is also something Warhol seemed to repeat often to people. Warhol claims that his paintings literally mean what you are looking at. Ratcliff feels as though, “Warhol refuses to take up a point of view from which satirical gestures of any sort might be made. He is more like a still center, a mirror in front of which we and the entire culture strike our various attitudes” (26) and this bold statement can be considered true to many others as well. As Goldsmith found in Warhol’s interview from Art Voices in 1962 his difficult personality only continued further into the interview when the interviewer asks Warhol, “Do Pop Artists influence each other?”(5) Warhol simply said, “It’s too early to say anything on that” (5) with a snide remark right back about how, “This is not a Kennedy press conference. Is Pop Art a school?” (5) Warhol replies, “I don’ know if there is a school yet” (5). I think throughout Warhol’s interviews not only in televised interviews, but print as well it is easy to see the personality traits that showed of his character in simply remarks he made or even in arranging to be interviewed at all.  


Pop Art and its’ fundamental importance as popular culture



“Question: What is Pop Art trying to say? Answer: I don't know" (5 Goldsmith), was probably not the only time Warhol gave that answer in an interview. Most likely that answer was given on numerous occasions by the artist in order to disguise his true intentions of Pop Art dominance. “Unlike conventional art, Pop was anything but “serious,” “subtle, universal, original, or inspiring” (228 Horowitz). What is Pop Art? “When Pop art appeared in the early 1960s, a second generation of Abstract Expressionists was just hitting its stride, preparing a full-scale assault on the aesthetic heights occupied by Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, and others. Pop art was widely taken as an insult to the hopes and values of these artists and to the modernist tradition they were trying to sustain” (7 Ratcliff). “Pop art as satire was fiction invented by art critics to explain why Warhol or Lichtenstein or James Rosenquist would bother with popular culture in the first place” (28) states Ratcliff. Carter Ratcliff says that because most New York dealers did not think Warhol’s comic-strip characters, before and after nose jobs, and do-it-yourself images were high art, “Warhol’s earliest Pop painting were never seen in galleries, surfacing only in museum surveys of his work” (23). The movement itself though seemed to start way earlier then the 1960s and when it did make its way to American art, “The movement might best be appreciated as a healthy correction to the earnest indulgences of its predecessor, Abstract Expressionism” (228 Horowitz). Horowitz continues with a realization Warhol came to while traveling cross-country around 1960, “The farther west we drove, the more Pop everything looked on the highways. Suddenly we all felt like insiders because even though Pop was everywhere-that was the thing about it, most people still took it for granted, whereas we were dazzled by it- to us, it was the new Art. Once you “got” Pop, you could never see a sign the same way again. And once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again” (228). While I do agree with a majority of Ratcliff’s thoughts on Warhol, the idea that he wouldn’t want to bother with popular culture in the first place is outlandish. I think that Warhol saw the enormous influence that popular culture had on every American citizen and he realized just how popular Pop Art would be and while he tried to act nonchalant about the complete control his work had on Pop Art reinventing popular culture is his personality trying to get more people intrigued by not only him but his work. 


Popular & mass culture in relation to 'Pop Art' as popular culture



In correlating the influence that Andy Warhol had on popular culture is relatively simple if you use the definition of popular culture that Lawrence Levine uses in The Folklore of Industrial Society, " popular culture is culture that is popular; culture that is widely accessible and widely accessed: widely disseminated, and widely viewed or heard or read" (1373). This definition is literally an example of what Warhol was trying to do for people through his art. His "Factory", for further reading about the facotry go to www.wikipedia.com, where he mass-produced his work is a perfect example of widely disseminated "Pop Art" or even popular culture. According to Ratcliff the Factory, “it attracted an extraordinary collection of art fans, hangers-on, and habitués” (33) which was also according to Ratcliff never dominated with Warhol’s authority “he was passive instead, a void toward which others gravitated with their anxieties, their ambitions, and, occasionally, their useful ideas” (37). I think that this idea that the Factory had also relates directly to the idea of mass culture. In looking at mass culture we learned in class the definition as, “culture produced through large scale, industrial production. Standardized goods presented to a mass market also imagined to be uniform.” This idea of mass culture correlates with the ideas of popular culture in that both are backed by the idea that the cultural piece is in demand. Warhol’s work was obviously something that was in constant demand. Levine goes on to state that in order for something to be popular meant that, "choices were being made; in every popular genre, audiences distinguished between what they found meaningful, appealing, and functional and what they did not" (1373). This is a main statement that can set Andy Warhol's influence on "pop art" as popular culture apart from other fads of the time period his work was to many people beginning to become meaningful, appealing, and functional to what people wanted. Andy Warhol's works were in demand as opposed to many fads people consider popular culture. Warhol wanted his works to be mass produced, which in other words would mean that he meant for them to be in popular demand. According to John Fiske in chapter 2 of his book __Understanding Popular Culture__, he says that, “Popular culture is not consumption, it is culture- the active process of generating and circulating meanings and pleasures within a social system” (23). This is also a good concept of why Warhol’s Pop Art was popular culture although a major portion of what made him seem to represent popular culture was the consumption of his work by American society. Warhol’s Pop Art generated and circulated meanings and pleasures with our social system at the time as well though. People found relief and interest and entertainment from what he was producing. While some people may have felt that his works did not have much meaning this idea of no meaning circulated within the society as well with the more works he produced. Fiske also states that popular culture is, “a process of meaning making in which people participate and which organizes power relations in society” (1). Cultural products may be formed by and allow the interests of corporations, but they are understood and used by individuals to express their desires, dreams, hopes, and fears as were the works of Warhol. I think that while Warhol seemed to not want to dominate the area of Pop Art, he knew the influence that Pop Art had on popular culture. He knew that in popular culture things were in constant demand, which in inevitably would make people know who was if he was producing what they wanted. I believe that is why Warhol’s work is relevant to popular culture.” 


Below is a personal conversation between Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick. Sedgwick was a very prominent figure in Warhol films


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Works Cited



Feldman, Frayda, and Jorg Schellmann. Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonne 1962-1987. Distributed Art Publishers, 2003.

Fiske, John. Understanding Popular Culture. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

Goldsmith, Kenneth, and Reva Wolf, and Wayne Koestenbaum. I’ll be Your Mirror: TheSelected Andy Warhol Interviews. New York: Carroll & Graf Pub., 2004.

Levine, Lawrence W. “The Folklore of Industrial Society: Popular Culture and Its Audiences.”The American Historical Review. Vol. 97, No.5. (Dec., 1992), pp.1369-1399.

Ratcliff, Carter. Andy Warhol. New York: Abbeville Press, 1983.

Warhol, Andy. “POPism.” The American Studies Anthology. Ed. Richard P. Horowitz. Lanham,MD: SR Books, 2001.

"Andy Warhol." Wikipedia. 5 December 2007. 5 December 2007. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_warhol>.

Yau, John. In The Realm of Appearances: The Art of Andy Warhol. New Jersey: The EccoPress, 1993. 



For further information on art check out Kristen's site at The Regionalists Movement in America 

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