MoMA | Andy Warhol. Campbell's Soup Cans. 1962

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Appropriation

Pop artists borrowed from popular culture, challenging notions of originality and what it means to be an artist.


Campbell's Soup Cans

Andy Warhol
(American, 1928–1987)

1962. Synthetic polymer paint on thirty-two canvases, Each canvas 20 x 16" (50.8 x 40.6 cm). Overall installation with 3" between each panel is 97" high x 163" wide

Andy Warhol famously appropriated familiar images from consumer culture and mass media, among them celebrity and tabloid news photographs, comic strips, and, in this work, the widely consumed canned soup made by the Campbell’s Soup Company. When he first exhibited Campbell’s Soup Cans in 1962, the canvases were displayed together on shelves, like products in a grocery aisle. At the time, Campbell’s sold 32 soup varieties; each one of Warhol’s 32 canvases corresponds to a different flavor. (The first flavor the company introduced, in 1897, was tomato).

Though Campbell’s Soup Cans resembles the mass-produced, printed advertisements by which Warhol was inspired, its canvases are hand-painted, and the fleur de lys pattern ringing each can’s bottom edge is hand-stamped. Warhol mimicked the repetition and uniformity of advertising by carefully reproducing the same image across each individual canvas. He varied only the label on the front of each can, distinguishing them by their variety. Warhol said of Campbell’s soup, “I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day, for 20 years, I guess, the same thing over and over again.”

Towards the end of 1962, shortly after he completed Campbell’s Soup Cans, Warhol turned to the photo-silkscreen process. A printmaking technique originally invented for commercial use, it would become his signature medium and link his art making methods more closely to those of advertisements. “I don’t think art should be only for the select few,” he claimed, “I think it should be for the mass of the American people.”

A person who directs or produces movies.

One who uses a camera or other means to produce photographs.

An image, especially a positive print, recorded by exposing a photosensitive surface to light, especially in a camera.

One who produces a three-dimensional work of art using any of a variety of means, including carving wood, chiseling stone, casting or welding metal, molding clay or wax, or assembling materials.

One who applies paint to canvas, wood, paper, or another support to produce a picture.

A representation of a person or thing in a work of art.

The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

The production of large amounts of standardized products through the use of machine-assembly production methods and equipment.

A closely woven, sturdy cloth of hemp, cotton, linen, or a similar fiber, frequently stretched over a frame and used as a surface for painting.

The method with which an artist, writer, performer, athlete, or other producer employs technical skills or materials to achieve a finished product or endeavor.

A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent (noun); the act of producing a picture using paint (verb, gerund).

A stencil-based printmaking technique in which the first step is to stretch and attach a woven fabric (originally made of silk, but now more commonly of synthetic material) tightly over a wooden frame to create a screen. Areas of the screen that are not part of the image are blocked out with a variety of stencil-based methods. A squeegee is then used to press ink through the unblocked areas of the screen, directly onto paper. Screenprints typically feature bold, hard-edged areas of flat, unmodulated color. Also known as silkscreen and serigraphy.

A work of art on paper that usually exists in multiple copies. It is created not by drawing directly on paper, but through a transfer process. The artist begins by creating a composition on another surface, such as metal or wood, and the transfer occurs when that surface is inked and a sheet of paper, placed in contact with it, is run through a printing press. Four common printmaking techniques are woodcut, etching, lithography, and screenprint.

A series of events, objects, or compositional elements that repeat in a predictable manner.

A distinctive and often recurring feature in a composition.

The materials used to create a work of art, and the categorization of art based on the materials used (for example, painting [or more specifically, watercolor], drawing, sculpture).

As an artistic strategy, the intentional borrowing, copying, and alteration of preexisting images, objects, and ideas.

Man of Many Talents
Andy Warhol was a fashion illustrator, painter, printmaker, sculptor, magazine publisher, filmmaker, photographer, and de facto archivist of his times. For his early paintings, he drew on his experiences as a commercial illustrator, appropriating motifs from advertising (among other sources) in his work.