Andy Warhol - Private Drawings From the 1950s

19 April - 25 May 2003  

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol: "Unidentified Male Portrait" c.1952, ink on ivory bond paper 

After graduating in pictorial design from The Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, in 1949, Andy Warhol embarked on a successful career as a commercial illustrator in New York. His illustrations for fashion magazines and advertisers are well known, the most famous works from this period being his shoe drawings. This exhibition of Andy Warhol's "private" drawings from the early fifties was the first time the group from his estate had been exhibited. These highly personal works from the same period as his commercial activity reflect the artist's life and interests and, more importantly, were produced for his own pleasure.

The drawings are portraits, almost exclusively of unknown male figures, possibly friends from parties Warhol attended with a group who included the photographer Otto Fenn. At a time when homosexuals were essentially an invisible minority and transvestitism was seen as taboo, these drawings capture a private world. While Warhol himself was openly gay, this was not on the whole explicitly evident in his art, although concurrent with these drawings, two projects, the exhibition Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote (Hugo Gallery, 1952) and Drawings for A Boy-Book (Bodley Gallery, 1956), to a degree share subject and style.

The portraits show these "ladies and gentlemen" in their jewellery, make-up, hats and other finery striking coy and playful poses full of a humour derived from their evident sense of relaxed enjoyment. Warhol does not flatter the sitters, but the portraits are not a cruel mockery nor represent the intrusive gaze of an outsider. They are candid and imbued with a profound tenderness, their speed and immediacy mirroring the sentiment and pleasure of their making.

The exhibition was accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue of the show, including a specially commissioned prose essay by the poet John Giorno and a text by renowned Warhol expert Donna de Salvo.

Supported by The Scottish Arts Council. Presented in association with Sadie Coles HQ, London and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Pittsburgh  

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol: "Unidentified Male Figure" c.1952, ink on ivory bond paper  

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol: "Unidentified Male Portrait and Upper Torso" c.1952, ink on white bond paper 

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol: "Otto Fenn" c.1952, ink on white bond paper

All works courtesy of Sadie Coles HQ London  

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