Andy Warhol, ‘Vesuvius, 1985 (#365)’, 1985, Martin Lawrence Galleries

In Vesuvius, Warhol revisits his 1960s exploration of ‘death and disaster’ scenes but with an art historical twist – he bases the image on a Romantic era painting Eruzione de Vesuvio by the Neapolitan artist Camillo de Vito. The Romantic era highlighted a vicarious enjoyment of nature as well as a lurid fascination with the violent death and cataclysm which Mother Nature was capable of. Picturesque 18th and early 19th century scenes of erupting volcanoes like Eruzione de Vesuvio foreshadow what would become the explicit images that flood our modern world, both in journalistic and artistic mediums. By reaching back to the Romantic era for Vesuvius’ inspiration, Warhol connects Romantic themes to their contemporary manifestation in the modern world. With his quintessential technique, Warhol takes de Vito’s already-sanitized version of the eruption and reduces it to some key lines and colors. The result is a beautiful abstraction with no troubling emotional impact. That the image is still recognizable as an erupting volcano is one of the hallmarks of Warhol’s artistic genius.

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