In 1962, Andy Warhol created Campbell’s Soup Cans, a piece exhibited at the Ferus Gallery in New York. 32 posters each depicting a soup can were exhibited as genuine works of art. At the time, it was quite a feat, as Pop Art had not yet recognized as an art form in America… It was a historical event for an innovative work! And KAZoART is here to explain what makes it so original…

Pop Art: A consumer product

The artwork we know today was a little different 55 years ago. When it first went on exhibition on 9 July 1962, the 32 posters were placed in a horizontal line, one after the other. This arrangement echoed the way the cans would have been lined up on a shelf.

Against all odds, the Pop Art movement was underway! Warhol brought consumer goods into galleries. He exhibited them exactly as they were to emphasize their retail value. Working in a similar vein, British painter and collage artist Richard Hamilton created a definition for this new school of art. According to Hamilton, Pop Art was “popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, and Big Business.”

“I want to be a machine”

Andy Warhol created his art in his studio, which he nicknamed “The Factory”, and saw himself as a machine. To make Campbell’s Soup Cans, he used serigraphy, a technique borrowed from the advertising world. The process involved recreating an industrial motif and repeating it in successive patterns.

Warhol was a real perfectionist and left nothing to chance! Every detail was vital, especially for this artwork. From afar, for example, they appear to be 32 identical cans. In reality, however, he has given each can a different flavour, from beef, to black bean, chicken noodle and onion. Suddenly, Campbell’s Soup had become more than just tomato soup… Warhol had brought it flavour.

Andy Warhol
Photo of Andy Warhol / Jack Mitchell, CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ever heard of rainbow soup?

Five years after painting industrial Campbell’s Soup cans, Warhol personalized the tins with different colours. Reds, blues, greens, yellows and purples popped out from plain backgrounds! He created 19 brightly coloured posters using a more standard artistic approach. He had begun what would become his trademark polychrome series.

Campbell’s Soup, a real brand behind the art

Warhol claimed to eat a lot of Campbell’s Soup – one for lunch every day for 20 years, to be precise. He had no fear of repetition and even said it himself, “the same thing over and over again.” So, was it a publicity stunt for the brand? Consumerism was at the heart of American society, but bringing it into galleries was still unthinkable.

Warhol, however, was dead set on bringing mass consumerism and real life into the field of art. To reflect the world around him, he used advertising images, photos of celebrities, and comics. Pop Art acknowledges reality, as did the Campbell’s Soup brand itself, with the slogan, “Made for real, real life”.

Campbell's Soup coloured
Photo: Jonn Leffmann [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A childhood memory

In an interview for The Face magazine, Warhol explained that his mother would use tin cans as vases for flowers. Perhaps he was paying tribute to her? Perhaps he was remembering his childhood? Andy Warhol was the youngest child of a family of Slovakian immigrants and particularly creative. His parents supported him in his endeavours despite their limited means.

The beauty of a simple can

Campbell’s Soup Cans was painted by hand. Warhol used paint as well as serigraphy. This enabled him to use the rules of art while simultaneously distorting them, observing reality to see it better… As he put it, “Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

Campbell's Soup, Andy Warhol
Campbell’s Soup, Andy Warhol, 1962, MoMA (97cm x 163 cm / Flicker, Sharon Mollerus, CC BY 2.0

For Warhol, poetry was also in perception. A tin can could become a flower vase. A brand logo could be delicately painted with a paintbrush. And an industrial soup could become a symbol of art… of Pop Art!

Similar artists at KAZoART – Jimmy Deneuville

Warhol was also known for his portraits of Marilyn Monroe. And, at KAZoART, we have a replica of his masterpiece. Like Warhol, Jimmy Deneuville uses digital printing and paint. He uses an industrial approach which he then personalizes by hand. A subtle combination of perfection and creativity…

Marilyn Purple, Jimmy Deneuville
Marilyn Purple, Jimmy Deneuville, mixed media
60 x 48 cm