Between 1955 and 1957, Warhol was the sole illustrator for shoe manufacturer I. Miller and made new drawings of shoes each week for ads in the New York Times. À la recherche du shoe perdu celebrates the central role shoes played in his early career and imagination. The title is a riff on Marcel Proust’s famous novel À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time, or Remembrance of Things Past). The captions, with their distinctive cursive lettering, were transcribed by Warhol’s mother, Julia Warhola (or by assistants who imitated her handwriting). Warhol and his friends hand-colored the sheets at coloring parties.
Gallery label from Andy Warhol: Campbell’s Soup Cans and Other Works, 1953–1967, April 25–October 18, 2015.
Printmaking, and in particular screenprint, was the basic medium for Andy Warhol’s celebrated work on canvas and paper. While a prize-winning commercial artist in the 1950s, he devised a printing process of blotting outline drawings in ink from one surface to another. In a whimsical book of fashionable shoe styles, done at the time he was head of advertising at a shoe company, his blotted drawings were reproduced and then hand-colored by a team of friends.
Although Warhol adopted a bland, detached persona, he was an extremely energetic artist and self-promoter who played a significant role in redirecting the course of art. Rather than deriving his work from subjective personal feelings or idealist visions for abstraction, Warhol embraced popular culture and commercial processes. He eventually set up his own print-publishing company called Factory Additions, issuing portfolios of his signature themes. For Marilyn, he created ten highly variable portraits, exploiting the possibilities in screenprinting for shifting colors and off-register effects. By celebrating the seemingly impervious veneer of glamour and fame, but acknowledging its darker inner complexity, these prints reveal Warhol’s subtle grasp of American culture.
Warhol did not participate in the collaborative printshop system established in America in the 1960s, but his work contributed decisively to what has been characterized as a “print boom” at that time. Through the course of his career, he made nearly eight hundred printed images on paper, about half published in traditional editions. He was also a surprisingly experimental printmaker, issuing hundreds of trial proofs and unique variants. The compositions that make up Camouflage, his last portfolio, constitute a playful commentary on abstraction. Through manipulation of scale and color from sheet to sheet, Warhol alters the visual impact of the military fabric used for concealment. In examples on canvas, he also superimposes his face, linking self-portraiture with disguise.
Publication excerpt from Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 162–163.