Campbell's Soup And Acrylic Pop Art by Karl Sultana
Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962, Andy Warhol, American 1928-1987), Acrylic on canvas, series of 32 paintings, each canvas 20”x 16" (50.8cm x 40.6cm). Currently in the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
Warhol first exhibited his series of Campbell's soup can paintings in 1962, with the 32 canvases hung so the bottom of each painting rested on a shelf in a parody of soup cans on a supermarket shelf. The 32 acrylic paintings in the series were a very literal representation of the number of varieties of soup sold at the time by Campbell's, with each label noting a different flavor.
Adding to the irony, the Acrylic paintings were presented in chronological order starting (at the upper left) with the date that Campbell introduced the various soup flavors (tomato in 1897, etc.) It is believed that the MoMA curator made this decision, not Warhol. Warhol claimed that he himself ate Campbell’s soup for lunch every day for more than twenty years.
Like other Pop artists of his time, Warhol used images of proven mass appeal such as comic strips, photos of rock idols and movie stars, advertisements, and tabloid news shots. In his endless repetition of banal images, he parodies the complacency, overabundance, and rampant consumerism of US society in the fifties and sixties.
His use of advertising-style graphics, silk screen and acrylic paints to portray over and over the same images was seen as subverting the idea of painting as a medium of invention and originality. He was attacked throughout his career, but struck a chord both in the art world and with the public. Cheeky, irreverent, but undeniably talented, Andy Warhol became a popular cult idol himself in the American art world of the sixties.
What Andy Did for Acrylic Painting
In the long history of art materials, acrylic paints are the newest by far. Acrylics were first developed as a solvent-based art medium only in the early part of the twentieth century. The first water-borne acrylic - the kind artists use today - was developed and launched in 1955 as Liquitex® (or “liquid texture”).
In the 1940s acrylic paint was commonly used as house paint, popular because of easy cleanup with soap and water. The wide range of colors and its fast-drying properties caught the attention of artists who took to using acrylics for large background areas in oil paintings.
Acrylics became widely used in printing and graphics, and since Andy Warhol was a graphic artist it was a natural medium for him to use. Historically, a new medium such as acrylic paint would take generations of exposure and refinement to gain artistic acceptance. When Andy Warhol’s acrylic painting gained critical and financial success, acrylics gained respectability and a permanent place in the artists’ toolbox of materials.
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