Arts Entertainments

Andy Warhol Cats and Dogs

In 1954, Andy Warhol, a renowned cat lover, published a series of 25 cat portraits in book form. Printed on hand-coloured, watermarked, limited-edition Arches paper, the prints were privately printed and made as a Christmas souvenir. He called 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 resided. And although they had had cats for twenty years, his series of cat portraits was not based on the cats he lived with and knew. Instead, they were based on the photographs of New York cat photographer Walter Chandoha.

In the 1970s, Warhol’s interest in cats waned and his interest in dogs increased. His boyfriend decided that they should have a short-haired Dachshund puppy. They named the dog “Archie”. Warhol became so taken with Archie that he became his alter ego. As he held Archie during the interviews, when Warhol did not want to answer a particular question, he would simply deflect the questions to Archie. Warhol took the dog everywhere: to his studio, to art openings, to dinners, to photo shoots, and to London when his work took him there.

When Archie was almost three years old, another Dachshund entered the scene. They named this dog “Amos”. The three of them got along wonderfully. Amos and Archie would run around the house barking, chasing and playing with each other while providing constant entertainment for Warhol. Everything was fine, except that now Archie would be staying home with his new friend Amos instead of walking around town with Warhol.

In 1976, art collector Peter Brant commissioned Andy Warhol to paint his Cocker Spaniel named Ginger. Andy did two paintings of Ginger, as well as drawings. Peter Brant liked these so much that he thought Warhol should do a whole series of drawings of cats and dogs. Andy also liked the idea. He would open up a new commissioned portrait area and give her the opportunity to use Archie and Amos in his work. All that was missing was a cat that would fit the modeling mold.

Warhol liked to work from photographs. He had a hard time organizing his pets and getting them to sit still. He decided to use stuffed animals for his first photos of cats and dogs. Vincent Fremont on Artnet called the finished paintings of these stuffed creatures “creepy and macabre.” The paintings; however, the ones Warhol completed from photographs of cats and dogs are said to be vibrant and full of character.

After a while, he began dabbling in other arts, including underground films that explored the shock value of nudity, greed, and sexuality. In 1976, after his break from conventional artistic pursuits, Peter Brant organized Warhol’s Cats and Dogs series exhibition in New York and London.

After Warhol’s period of drawing and painting cats and dogs, he began with artistic renderings of Campbell’s soup cans and his focus on pop culture as seen in his Marilyn Monroe-centric works. After his mother’s death, Warhol became more distant from the public eye. Warhol left behind his diaries which were later published in a book. While many say his entries are “mundane,” those who study his art find that they leave behind a story: a postmodern story that is very reflective of his beliefs, connections, and a life dedicated to the exploratory arts.

Copyright © 2008 Melanie Light

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