Title: Beef, from Campbell’s Soup I,
Medium: Screenprint in colors, on wove paper, with full margins.
Size: 35 × 23 in (88.9 × 58.4 cm)
Arguably the most famous work by Andy Warhol, the artist’s iconic Campbell’s Soup I complete series was first printed in 1968. The series, made up of screen-printed images of cans of soup — in various flavors — has become one of the most enduring artifacts of the pop art movement.
The paintings which make up Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup I series form a group of 32 silkscreened canvases, which were then hand-lettered with each of the 32 varieties of soup made by Campbell’s. By making use of the mechanical silkscreen technique, Warhol removed the direct input of the artist from the artistic process, becoming one of the first artists to do so to such an extent.
These original silkscreens, which measure in at 20”x16” each. remain the most popular and sought after by collectors and even Warhol himself claimed that the original paintings of the cans were his personal favorites of his own work. In a characteristically self-deprecating manner, he once quipped: “I should have just done the Campbell’s Soups and kept on doing them. Everybody only does one painting anyway.”
Warhol returned to the soup cans often during the late sixties, and at ArtLife, we have prints of the Complete Portfolio II and his Campbell’s Tomato Soup print for sale.
Warhol was believed to have focused on soup cans because they were one of his dietary staples, explaining to a journalist: “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.”
However, they also serve as an object of mass consumption. One of the reasons Warhol’s work in this style was seen as so revolutionary was its subversion of the idea that paintings were a method of expressing invention and originality. Instead, this series of identical prints of soup cans created uniformity amongst each flavor, not unlike the way the product is displayed in grocery stores.
The Campbell’s Soup Series I was printed by the Salvatore Silkscreen Co Inc, New York and published through Factory Additions, a company Warhol created to distribute his prints. The series of prints demonstrate Warhol’s fascination with the photo-silkscreen printing process, a technique that became his signature style.