In 1954, Andy Warhol, a well-known cat lover, published a series of 25 cat portraits in book form. Printed on limited edition watermarked hand colored Arches paper, the prints were privately printed and produced as Christmas keepsakes. He titled his book 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy. He originally intended it to read “…Named Sam”, but his mother, who did the lettering, left out the “d” and Warhol thought the final version was fine.
In the 1950s, Warhol bought a brownstone where he and his mother lived. And although they had owned cats for twenty years, his series of cat portraits were not based on the cats he lived with and knew. Instead, they were based on the photographs taken by New York cat photographer Walter Chandoha.
During the 1970s, Warhol’s interest in cats waned and his interest in dogs increased. His friend decided that they should get a short haired dachshund puppy. They named the dog “Archie”. Warhol was so fascinated by Archie that he became his alter ego. Since he was holding Archie during interviews and Warhol didn’t want to answer a specific question, he simply redirected the questions to Archie. Warhol took the dog everywhere – to his studio, to private viewings, to dinners, to photo shoots, and to London when his work took him there.
When Archie was almost three years old, another dachshund came into the picture. They named this dog “Amos”. The three got along splendidly. Amos and Archie ran around the townhouse barking, chasing, and playing with each other while constantly entertaining Warhol. Everything was fine except that instead of galloping around town with Warhol, Archie would now be staying at home with his newfound friend Amos.
In 1976, art collector Peter Brant commissioned Andy Warhol to paint his cocker spaniel named Ginger. Andy made two paintings of Ginger as well as drawings. Peter Brant liked these so much that he thought Warhol should do a whole series of cat and dog drawings. Andy liked the idea too. It would open up a new commissioned portrait space and give him the opportunity to use Archie and Amos in his work. All he was missing was a cat to fit the modeling mold.
Warhol liked to work from photographs. He found it difficult to show off his pets and leave them lying still. He chose stuffed animals for his first cat and dog photos. Artnet’s Vincent Fremont called the finished paintings of these stuffed creatures “spooky and macabre.” The paintings; however, the ones Warhol completed from photographs of cats and dogs are said to be vibrant and imbued with personality.
After a time he began to explore other arts, including underground films that explored the shock value of nudity, greed and sexuality. In 1976, after his hiatus from regular mainstream art activities, Peter Brant arranged for Warhol’s Dogs and Cats series to be shown in New York and London.
After Warhol’s period of drawing and painting cats and dogs, he began making artistic interpretations for Campbell’s soup cans and focused on pop culture, as seen in his work around Marilyn Monroe. After the death of his mother, Warhol became more and more distant from the public eye. Warhol left his diaries, which were later published in a book. While many say his entries are “commonplace,” those who study his art find that they leave a story – a postmodern story that reflects his beliefs, his connections to, and a life dedicated to, exploratory art. strongly reflected.
Copyright © 2008 Melanie Licht
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