In 1954, Andy Warhol, a renowned cat lover, published a series of 25 cat portraits in book form. Printed on limited edition, hand-colored Arches watermarked paper, the prints were privately printed and made as a Christmas keepsake. He named his book 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy. He had originally meant it to read “… Named Sam” but his mother, who did the lettering, left off the “d” and Warhol thought that the final version was fine.
In the 1950s, Warhol bought a brownstone where he and his mother resided. 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 of New York Cat Photographer Walter Chandoha.
In the 1970s, Warhol ‘s interest with cats faded and his interest in dogs rose. His boyfriend decided they should get a short-haired Dachshund puppy. They named the dog “Archie”. Warhol became so enthralled with Archie that he became his alter ego. As he held Archie during 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 dinner, to photo shoots, and to London when his work took him there.
When Archie was almost three, another Dachshund came into the picture. This dog, they called “Amos”. The three of them got along famously. Amos and Archie would run around the townhouse barking, chasing and playing with one another while providing constant entertainment for Warhol. All was well, except now Archie would stay at home with his newfound friend Amos instead of gallivanting the city with Warhol.
In 1976, the 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 area of commission portraits and would give him a chance to use Archie and Amos in his work. All he lacked was a cat that would fit the modeling mold.
Warhol liked to work from photographs. He had a difficult time staging his pets and having them remain still. He decided to use stuffed animals for his first cat and dog photos. Vincent Fremont at Artnet called the finished paintings of these stuffed creatures “spooky and macabre”. The paintings; however, that Warhol completed from photographs of cats and dogs are said to be vibrant and infused with personality.
After some time he began dabbling in other arts, including underground films that explored the shock value of nudity, greed, and sexuality. In 1976, after his hiatus from regular, mainstream art pursuits, Peter Brant arranged for Warhol’s dog and cat series to be shown in New York and in London.
After Warhol’s period of drawing and painting cats and dogs, he started on artistic renditions for Campbell soup cans and his focus on pop-culture as seen in his works centered around Marilyn Monroe. After his mother’s death, Warhol became more distant from the public’s eye. Warhol left his diaries behind that were later published into a book. While many say his entries are “mundane”, those who study his art find that they leave a history – a post-modern history much reflective of his beliefs, ties to, and a life dedicated to explorative arts.
Copyright © 2008 Melanie Light