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POP! goes the Picture Collection: Warhol at NYPL
He came from my hometown. As a teenager, he collected photographs of movie stars. A few years later, I clipped fan zines featuring Hayley Mills and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and the Dave Clark 5 and Star Trek, which last title had a lot to do with his obsessions. He shared his hair shade with my first cousins, who were a lot intellectual and a little odd, just like he was. He moved to New York shortly after graduating college, as did I. I can relate.
And then he became an international art sensation and changed the course of art history forever.
Until yesterday in the Picture Collection.
Yes, we have: An. Original. Andy. Warhol.
(Note: click on any picture to see an enlargement of that picture.)
One winter day in 1954, Andy Warhol saw fit to draw his appreciation of the Picture Collection in reds and pinks and yellows and blues. Children dance through a carefully folded greeting card inscribed “Happy December r j.” R J is no other than Romana Javitz, the illustrious curator of the Picture Collection from 1924 to 1968. Given that for years Warhol designed Christmas cards for Tiffany's with angels and wreaths and ornaments and Santas, we note the sensitivity to friends of the Jewish faith inherent in the drawing and message.
Now weʼre not art appraisers, and we know that Warhol constantly experimented with different styles and media, but even if the drawing were lacking his own signature, we would be able to identify it. A cursory look through the file PAINTINGS - Warhol produces these reproductions. Same style. Same vivid colors.
Just how do we know that Andy was an avid Picture Collection user? A few years back, the Art Collection purchased Andy Warhol: “Giant” Size, a big book documenting the life and work of this big artist, published in 2006 by Phaidon Press. The bottom half of p.128 looks like this:
He borrowed them from a folder with the subject heading ADVERTISING - Soft Drinks. (We still have that folder and we still use that stamp.) This appears to have been the inspiration for his series of Coca-Cola paintings, ca.1962, much of which is now in the possession of the Whitney Museum. (Aside: If you canʼt contemplate a pilgrimage to Pittsburgh, it might be worth noting that the Whitney owns 114 works by Warhol, MoMA owns more than 200, many of which can be seen online, and the Guggenheim is not without a share.)
Warhol did not return these pictures to the Collection. He also affixed a newspaper ad with masking tape to what can only be described as, ahem, the property of The New York Public Library. We prefer not to comment on the propriety of his actions. We can only assume this was an aberration from his normal practice and that he paid the fee charged for lost pictures. Otherwise he would not have been on very good terms with the aforementioned Romana Javitz. That paltry investment (currently $5 per picture) was an Antiques-Road-Show-like bargain for Warhol, since this research resulted in a series of iconic paintings now worth millions.
We also like to think that an image like this, clipped from a 1970 issue of Look Magazine, might have propelled Warhol towards summits of creativity previously unexplored. The picture can be found and borrowed from our LABELS heading.
If you seek inspiration from Warhol, youʼll find no shortage of visual stimulation here. The Art Collection has no fewer than 123 books on Warhol, his influence and his art. The publication of The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol, a collection of interviews with Warholʼs Factory cohorts and other associates, triggered a well-attended panel discussion with his associates at NYPL last June, now playing on NYPL video.
Who knows? A visit to the Art & Picture Collections may spark a blaze of creativity that lights your own way to artistic stardom. Follow Andyʼs example and POP on by.
Notes on images depicted:
(1) Clipped from Andy Warhol: a Retrospective. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1989.
(2) Clipped from Warhol, by David Bourdon. New York: Abrams, 1989.
(3) Picture was originally clipped from Time Magazine, Jan. 26, 1948.
(4) Pictures in the montage of Andy Warhol portraits were pulled from the following files: Artists, Studios, Personalities - Darling; Sedgwick; Warhol.