In 1960, and already established as a highly successful commercial illustrator, Warhol began a series of paintings using source material drawn from popular culture. His found images included adverts from tabloid newspapers and comic-strip characters, which he transferred onto canvas with the help of an overhead projector. He had yet to find a gallery and so took up an offer to display a group of his paintings in the window of the Bonwit Teller department store in New York, pictured below.
Like other young artists of his generation, he developed his art in the shadow of Abstract Expressionism, the dominant New York avant-garde. While Abstract Expressionists sought to transcend ordinary life through the spiritual and mythic, Warhol found inspiration and even heroism in the everyday. The painterly drips that slide down the otherwise flat surfaces of the paintings in this room are a self-conscious nod to the gestural brushwork favoured by the movement and show him rethinking the medium of painting. Eventually, he would eliminate all the drips and splatters from his work, but at the time, as he commented, ‘I still wasn’t sure if you could completely remove all the hand gestures from art and become noncommittal, anonymous.’