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Pop artists absorbed and borrowed from popular culture, challenging notions of originality and what it means to be an artist.

Campbell's Soup Cans

Andy Warhol
(American, 1928–1987)

1962. Synthetic polymer paint on thirty-two canvases, Each canvas 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6 cm)

When Warhol first exhibited these Campbell’s Soup Cans in 1962, they were displayed together on shelves, like products in a grocery aisle. At the time, the Campbell’s Soup Company sold 32 soup varieties; each canvas corresponds to a different flavor. Warhol did not indicate how the canvases should be installed. At MoMA, they are arranged in rows that reflect the chronological order in which the soups were introduced. The first flavor introduced by the company was tomato, in 1897.

Though Campbell’s Soup Cans resembles the mass-produced, printed advertisements by which Warhol was inspired, it is hand-painted, while the fleur de lys pattern ringing each can’s bottom edge is hand-stamped. In this work, he mimicked the repetition and uniformity of advertising by carefully reproducing the same image across each individual canvas. He varied only the label on the front of each can, distinguishing them by their variety. Warhol said of Campbell’s Soup, “I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day, for 20 years, I guess, the same thing over and over again.”

Towards the end of 1962, shortly after he completed Campbell’s Soup Cans, Warhol turned to the photo-silkscreen process. A printmaking technique originally invented for commercial use, it would become his signature medium and link his art making methods more closely to those of advertisements.

A representation of a person or thing in a work of art.

Cotton or linen woven cloth used as a surface for painting.

A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent (noun); the act of producing a picture using paint (verb, gerund).

A printing technique in which areas of a silkscreen, comprised of woven mesh stretched on a frame, are selectively blocked off with a non-permeable material (typically a photo-emulsion, paper, or plastic film) to form a stencil, which is a negative of the image to be printed. Ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface with a squeegee, creating a positive image.

A term describing a wide variety of techniques used to produce multiple copies of an original design. Also, the resulting text or image made by applying inked characters, plates, blocks, or stamps to a support such as paper or fabric.

A series of events, objects, or compositional elements that repeat in a predictable manner.

The materials used to create a work of art, and the categorization of art based on the materials used (for example, painting [or more specifically, watercolor], drawing, sculpture).

A Man of Many Talents
Andy Warhol was a fashion illustrator, painter, printmaker, sculptor, magazine publisher, filmmaker, photographer, and archivist of his times. His early paintings drew on his experiences as a commercial illustrator, and appropriated motifs from advertising and comics.