By now, our readers will probably have heard of Crystal Bridges’ recent acquisition of two paintings and a book of Polaroid prints by Andy Warhol. (If not, read more about it here.) I thought I’d give you some additional information.
Untitled, 1949 Tempera, graphite, and ink on board
The early, untitled, Warhol was created in 1949 and purchased by Martha Sutherland, an Arkansas resident who was a classmate of the artist. The painting was a class assignment titled “Heads and Hands.”
“I was in school with Andy at Carnegie Institute of Technology and we were in class together,” explained Sutherland. “Everyone there admired his work and felt he was a wonderful artist. This artwork was in the classroom, it was a studio so it was full of art projects, and it was sitting around among lots of other student work. I always admired it, and I was afraid that someone else would offer to buy, so I asked him and he said yes. He signed it ‘Warhola’ on the back, as he hadn’t changed his name yet, and he actually liked being called André at the time.”
“The painting’s style is surprisingly different from his commercial designs and Pop Art,” said Crystal Bridges President Don Bacigalupi. “The figures seem massive and are fully modeled. Their monumental proportions, large hands, and the work’s fresco-like painting style evoke murals and portraits by Ben Shahn, an artist the young Warhol admired. The painting is a rare discovery. [Because it was in a private collection,] it was never seen by the public before it was donated to Crystal Bridges.”
Coca-Cola , 1962 Casein on canvas
This work was purchased at auction, and its arrival happily coincides with the recent gift from Martha Sutherland. (It’s in the vault being uncrated as I type this!)
Coca-Cola  is an exciting acquisition because it marks a turning point in Warhol’s career. It is with this painting that he really made the turn toward Pop Art. In his memoir, Warhol recalls showing two paintings of a Coke bottle to his friend Emile de Antonio: this one and a more gestural, Abstract Expressionist-style work titled Coca-Cola (2), now in the collection of the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.
“ ‘Well, look, Andy,’ he said after staring at them for a couple of minutes. ‘One of these is a piece of ****, simply a little bit of everything. The other is remarkable—it’s our society, it’s who we are, it’s absolutely beautiful and naked, and you ought to destroy the first one and show the other.’ That afternoon was an important one for me…I knew that I definitely wanted to take away the commentary of the gestures…the works I was most satisfied with were the cold, ‘no comment’ paintings.” (Popism, The Warhol Sixties pg. 6-8)
In all there were four paintings in this Coca-Cola series: the first, a smaller work done in red and featuring Coke’s original circular logo, was modeled after an advertisement from 1947. The others are based on a later ad and the bottle featured is Coke’s 1961 revamp of the classic bottle.
Come See Them! We are very excited to be able to get these remarkable works installed in the Twentieth-Century Art Gallery in time for guests to view them during the holidays. They are being hung alongside two other Warhols in Crystal Bridges’ collection: Hammer and Sickle (1977) and Dolly Parton (1985), and will be ready for viewing TODAY! Please do come by and visit them!
One other thing… The book of Polaroid images, or more specifically 21 dye diffusion transfer prints (Polaroid Polacolor Type 108) from 1971, include images of Max Delys, the French actor who appeared in Warhol’s 1973 film L’Amour; Jed Johnson, the interior designer and film director who lived with Warhol and directed Andy Warhol’s Bad, and Paul Morrissey, the director of Warhol’s films after 1965 and discoverer of the Velvet Underground. These are not on view at present, but we’ll be thinking of the best ways to get them out on exhibit.