Article - Religious motifs

The aim of this paper by Marek Kucharski was to analyze the religious motifs which permeate Andy Warhol’s artistic output. Marek puts special emphasis on the motif of the icon, the concept of which was completely redefined in his serigraphic realizations. He also focuses on the idiosyncratic character of religious references which, always present in Warhol’s artistic production, started to dominate in his work towards the end of his life.

The complexity of Warhol’s approach towards pop art can be proved by the dualism which consistently manifested itself in the binary oppositions that can be observed in his artistic oeuvre: highbrow culture – lowbrow culture, artistic individualism – mass-production, anonymity – fame, the private – the public, the East – the West, the sacred – the profane. Similar dichotomies characterize his religious paintings.

Warhol’s involvement in applying religious motifs in his productions was a gradual process which actually spanned the whole period of his artistic activity. When analyzing his visual realizations in a religious context, one can distinguish four periods during which his works displayed religious or quasi-religious propensities: the earliest was the 1950s – the beginnings of Warhol’s activity as a graphic designer in New York. It was then that, besides the chiefly commercial projects, he also produced a series of religious designs, which is best exemplified by the Christmas cards for Tiffany & Co. The next period was the 1960s – a time dominated by the creation of iconic representations of objects of everyday use and portraits of American figures from the world of politics and pop culture. It was also a period that witnessed his series focusing on such issues as race riots, car crashes, suicides, H-bomb explosions, and images of electric chairs, as well as photographs of the thirteen most wanted men. The 1970s saw the continuation of this trend with a tendency towards painting artistically sophisticated portraits; this led to his production of the series of Skulls and self-portraits with skulls, as well as the abstract Shadows. And finally the 1980s – the decade during which Warhol continued painting portraits and embarked on creating travesties of the classic Renaissance paintings with special regard to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. It was also around that time that Warhol produced his series of Crosses and Eggs.


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Kucharski Marek. 2015. Religious Motifs in Andy Warhols Selected Visual Realizations. Annales Universitatis Paedagogicae Cracoviensis: Studia Anglica IV. 45-56

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