Andy Warhol, ‘Pine Barrens Tree Frog, 1983 (#294, Endangered Species) ’, 1983, Martin Lawrence Galleries

In 1983, Andy Warhol made the Endangered Species series featuring ten endangered species from around the world. While Warhol’s trademark silkscreen is the primary technique in these paintings, he used an overhead projector to trace the source image for the silkscreen, and there is a captivating interplay of this hand-drawing and the ready-made image he retains underneath.

Warhol referred to these works as “animals in makeup.” Indeed, the artist glamorized these rarified, exotic creatures in much the same way he did the myriad stars he made portraits of throughout the 1970s. The paintings celebrate these animals and immortalize them in a joyful amalgam of color and gesture. We cannot help but be aware, however, of the precariousness of their situation and the likelihood of not only their death but their total extinction.

While the Endangered Species fit thematically into Warhol’s oeuvre, he did care about the plight of these creatures. He collaborated with Kurt Benirschke, former Director of research at the San Diego Zoo, on the book Vanishing Animals, published in 1986, for which Warhol made a series of related prints to illustrate Benirschke’s text. Warhol understood the power of celebrity, and that by celebrating these animals, he could call attention to their struggle for survival. Following the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the 1980s saw an expansion in the reach of the conservation movement, with a handful of species recovering sufficiently to be delisted by the middle of the decade. The iconic Bald Eagle was removed from the endangered list in 2007. The other nine animals Warhol painted as a part of this series remain on it.

Signature: Signed by the Artist

Image rights: Martin Lawrence Galleries

Publisher: Andy Warhol, Rupert Jasen Smith, New York

About Andy Warhol

Obsessed with celebrity, consumer culture, and mechanical (re)production, Pop artist Andy Warhol created some of the most iconic images of the 20th century. As famous for his quips as for his art—he variously mused that “art is what you can get away with” and “everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”—Warhol drew widely from popular culture and everyday subject matter, creating works like his 32 Campbell's Soup Cans (1962), Brillo pad box sculptures, and portraits of Marilyn Monroe, using the medium of silk-screen printmaking to achieve his characteristic hard edges and flat areas of color. Known for his cultivation of celebrity, Factory studio (a radical social and creative melting pot), and avant-garde films like Chelsea Girls (1966), Warhol was also a mentor to artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. His Pop sensibility is now standard practice, taken up by major contemporary artists Richard Prince, Takashi Murakami, and Jeff Koons, among countless others.

American, 1928-1987, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, based in New York, New York