From the worlds of advertising and fashion he took many of the ideas and production techniques that would come to characterise his revolutionary brand of Pop art. This selection of early drawings includes both commercial illustrations and more experimental work. They reveal key themes that were to concern him throughout his life, including homoeroticism, celebrity, consumerism, car crashes, and the glamour of gold. Though Warhol was extremely successful as an illustrator and had numerous exhibitions in New York, his fanciful depictions of young men and shoes found little acceptance among the art world.
Although the first Campbell’s soup paintings were hand-painted, at the time Warhol was exploring various printing methods, including rubber-stamps and hand-cut silkscreens and would soon arrive at his classic technique: photo-silkscreening. Through repetition, subtle surface variations and extraordinarily charged colour combinations, Warhol transformed banal subject matter such as money, Coca-Cola and supermarket boxes into optically charged, painterly fields. His approach reflected an intuitive grasp of the parallels between contemporary painting and sculpture and the visual strategies of advertising.
The printing techniques that allowed Warhol to endlessly repeat his images also suited his democratic approach to culture in general. As he put it: ‘What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking.’