“Campbell’s Soup Cans”
Andy Warhol, 1962, American Pop Art
Ahhhh . . . there is nothing like a warm cup of soup on a cold winter’s day!
It is January in Minnesota. I gaze at the cold, snowy scene out my window. I smell the aroma of the rich soup brewing in the crock pot in my kitchen. I remember the iconic Campbell Soup Can series by Pop artist Andy Warhol. Yes. It is the perfect art for now!
Soup. A staple in the lives of most people in the world since probably the dawn of time, if we think about it.
I visualize a large pot filled with clear spring water, colorful vegetables and freshly caught meat simmering over an open fire just inside the entrance of a cave man’s dwelling–or on the hearth of a settler’s cabin.
One of the first things we Minnesotans do when the temperature starts to drop outside is to dig the crock pot out of summer storage to make a big batch of savory soup. The aroma fills the air. The warmth radiates into the room. We anticipate the taste, maybe pairing it with crisp crackers or a classic grilled cheese sandwich. Life can’t get much better than that!
Andy Warhol had grown up with Campbell soup. He said “I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day for 20 years” (History.com). In 1962, with this nostalgic and graphic punch, he chose Campbell soup cans as the subject of his first solo art show. This event moved Warhol from being a commercial artist towards his ultimate goal of being a “real” artist–and ultimately a common house-hold name for the balance of the century and beyond.
The idea of utilizing common household objects as objects of art, as introduced by Warhol, began the sensational mid-twentieth century Pop Art movement that would turn the traditional art world upside down, once again! I am reminded of times in ages past when the definition of art was stretched to a new level, much to the chagrin of the prevailing traditional art world at the time. 500 years ago, during the Italian Renaissance, the art of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci brought the human body and landscapes to life in all their 3D glory after the rigid, flat, two-dimensional art of the middle ages. 150 years ago, French Impressionists stretched the definition of art to a new level once again as they created art that was an “impression” of the subject, not attempting to make landscapes and portraits look “real.” The camera could now do that.
Once the shock of Warhol’s soup cans wore off, the public and the critics warmed up to them. Pop Art actually made art FUN! It was art that could be easily understood; how difficult could it be to understand a painting when the original was probably in your kitchen cupboard?
By 1964, just two short years after his soup can exhibit, the asking price for a single soup can painting by Warhol, not in the original set, was $1,500! Socialites in New York City were wearing paper dresses in a soup can print–custom made by Warhol himself–to gallery openings.
With paper dresses now in vogue in the general fashion world, Campbell Soup jumped on the bandwagon and came out with the Souper Dress, a paper dress covered with Warhol-esque soup labels. Each dress had three gold bands at the bottom so that the wearer could snip her dress to the ideal length without cutting into the soup pattern. The price: $1.00 plus two Campbell’s Soup labels!
NOTE: If you find one of these in your mom’s or grandma’s stash of heirlooms, DO NOT TOSS IT! It may be your retirement fund!
Warhol: Pop Culture Icon
Today, Warhol’s soup can art still remains a pop culture icon, seen on everything from tee-shirts and neckties, plates and mugs, to surfboards and skateboard decks. In 1996, finally recognized as being museum-worthy art, the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, NYC), purchased the original 32 paintings for $15 million! The Souper Dress had been declared a classic and was already a part of the MoMA collection! Warhol had achieved his original goal of being recognized as being a “real” artist by museums and critics!
For an informative blog on facts about Warhol, I found this website to be very interesting: go to https://blog.britishmuseum.org/the-british-museums-list-of-15-things-you-should-know-about-andy-warhol/