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The Significance of Campbell’s Soup Cans for Andy Warhol Essay

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Andy Warhol’s rise to fame was not easy. Haunted by his profession as a commercial artist in New York he struggled to gain recognition as a real artist, yet he kept trying. He experimented with different styles of art hoping to get a solo exhibition at a gallery. One of Warhol’s experimental styles was influenced by comic books; he made paintings that included characters from comics, along with though balloons. Warhol was greatly disappointed after seeing paintings of an artist by the name of Roy Lichtenstein, whose work resembled comic books as well. Fearing that his comic style paintings were inferior to those of Lichtenstein’s, Warhol moved on to another motif – painting consumer goods, specifically Campbell’s Soup cans. His original 32 paintings of Campbell’s canned soup (titled Campbell’s Soup Cans) played a major role in defining Andy Warhol’s artistic career. Apart from helping him get his first solo exhibition the Campbell’s Soup Cans steered the direction of Warhol’s future work.
It was because of the Campbell’s Soup Cans that Andy Warhol got his first solo art exhibition, in the summer of 1962. Even though Warhol lived and worked in New York, the exhibition took place in Los Angeles, at Ferus Gallery. The exhibition was made possible by Irving Blum, who was running the Ferus Gallery at the time. During his visit to New York, Blum was intrigued by several paintings of Campbell’s canned soup that he saw at Warhol’s studio. After Warhol explained his intent to paint a series of cans for every flavor in the Campbell’s Soup catalogue Blum proposes a show for the entire collection and Warhol embraced the idea. The exhibit, consisting of 32 paintings, ran for most of the summer and managed to stir up lots of fuss in the art sc...


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... of this meaning. Warhol grasped the impact of expressing ideas through the use of repetition and adopted this technique in his future projects.
After the Campbell’s Soup Cans exhibit Warhol moved onto exploring other themes for his art, like pop stars and car crashes, but he did not stop painting Campbell’s canned soup. The soup can works appeared in different sizes, different colors, different contexts and even a combination of Elvis Presley and a soup can. Warhol also did a few paintings with 100 and more Campbell’s soup cans arranged into a grid. He probably made as many Campbell’s soup can paintings as he made pop star paintings. Was Warhol implying that the soup cans are pop stars as well? They were definitely pop stars for Warhol and even for Pop Art, because if it wasn’t for the Campbell’s Soup Cans Andy Warhol might have been nothing more than a footnote.


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