Andy Warhol, ‘The Scream (After Munch)’, 1984, Christie's

One of a small number of unique impressions, the proposed edition was never realized, with the 'Estate of Andy Warhol' and the 'Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board' inkstamps on the reverse, the full sheet, in generally very good condition, framed
Sheet: 40 x 32 in. (1016 x 813 mm.)

From the Catalogue:
Andy Warhol’s reinterpretation of the work of Edvard Munch was part of a wider venture in his final decade that saw him appropriate the work of de Chirico, Picasso, Cranach, Leonardo and Raphael (lot 32 shows his interpretation of the latter’s Birth of Venus.) However, it is his engagement with Edvard Munch that has resonated most strongly with collectors and critics in the decades since.

The quintessential artistic magpie, Warhol’s first immersive experience of the Norwegian master came during a visit to Oslo 1971 when he spent time at the National Gallery and the Munch Museum. He professed at the time to being more impressed by his prints than his paintings, and was surprised at how prolific Munch was as a printmaker. The importance this had in creating income and enhancing Munch’s reputation was certainly not lost on him either.

Fast-forward to late 1982 and Warhol, on one of his daily amblings distributing copies of Interview, visited Galleri Bellman on 57th Street. The gallery had recently opened a show of 126 paintings and prints by Edvard Munch, including an impression of The Scream, a lithograph from 1895 on loan from the Munch Museum in Oslo. Thrilled to be reacquainted with Munch’s work, Warhol returned several times, eventually securing a commission to paint what became known as the After Munch series, which consisted of The Scream, Eva Mudocci and Self Portrait juxtaposed with Madonna. In 1983 five canvases of each were commissioned, fifteen works in all.

The following year, a related project to create screen-printed versions of the motifs was agreed, with the original idea being to issue sixty portfolios, each containing the three compositions. He began work on the screen-prints by ordering photographs and transparencies of the originals to be enlarged - these were then used as the basis of tracings, whereby Warhol recreated the structure with bold graphite lines. His printer Rupert Jasen Smith added blocks of color to these tracings using stencils, to produce a series of unique color versions – the idea being that Warhol would select the most successful combination to use for the edition. The combinations were extremely varied, ranging from two colors to half a dozen or more, from somber browns and blacks to neon pinks and lime greens. In some the figure is in sharp relief against a muted background, and in others the figure is completely subsumed by the landscape and almost invisible.

It is intriguing that Warhol’s development of the image was the reverse of Munch’s. The painted version of the Scream, with its swirling lines of color, first appeared in 1893, whereas the lithographic version which reduced this to a series of stark black lines was published in 1895. What they do have in common is the way in which color was incorporated. Jasen Smith’s use of stencils closely mirrors Munch’s technique of cutting his woodblocks into sections and inking each in a different color.

Unfortunately, disagreements between the directors of Galleri Bellman meant the project was cancelled and it is not known how many of the unique versions were created. Warhol’s publisher at the time, Ron Feldman, first came up with the idea of selecting an edition from amongst a number of unique color proofs. In these projects thirty versions were produced, which might suggest a similar number of the After Munch screenprints were made.

When considering what it was about Munch that attracted Warhol, it is interesting to note that with over one hundred works in the exhibition to choose from, Warhol decided to concentrate exclusively on Munch’s graphics – which begs the question of not just why Munch, but why Munch’s prints? As with everything Warhol, there is considerable room for speculation. Putting aside the idea that it was dictated by the desire to avoid copyright fees, was Warhol responding to The Scream’s profound howl of anguish at the fundamental emptiness of the universe? Or -perhaps more likely - was he responding to the sheer star power of an image that had already been appropriated and reproduced in more formats and on more consumer products even than his own Soup Cans and Marilyns.
—Courtesy of Christie's

Feldman & Schellmann IIIA.58

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, PA, United States, based in New York, NY, United States