Death emerged as a distinctive theme in Warhol’s work in the 1960s, with his Marilyn Monroe portraits and the 'Death and Disaster' series. His fears about dying were heightened in 1968 when he was shot and critically injured by Valerie Solanas. The gun depicted here is similar to the .22 snub-nosed pistol that she used. At around the same time as he was painting guns Warhol was also doing a series of knife pictures. Indeed, the first idea was to show them together, along with some dollar-sign paintings, at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York in January 1982.