If you haven’t ever had Campbell’s Soup it could be thought that you are un-American. Or at least, I think you are.
In 1962, with 32 paintings of Cambell’s Soup Cans, Andy Warhol fully describes an American conformist society.
Andy Warhol was born in 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvanian (5). His parents were Czechoslovakian, and did not have much money. Warhol became the main money supplier when he was only 14. But he did not disappoint: Warhol made a huge impact in the art world by creating a new identity for art culture. En lieu of his Pop Art, many critics viewed Warhol’s greatest accomplishment to be his own image (4). Warhol was one of the first artists to have such a celebrity status (5). Warhol became famous for copying common objects, similar to how housewives copied the common fashions in food and decor to keep a higher status.
Cambell’s Soup Cans are currently in the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA). Andy Warhol hand-painted each of the 32 Campbell’s soup flavors and originally displayed them on shelves, to give it a more “mass-produced” feel (1). The only non painted part of each soup can is the fleur de lys stamped pattern at the bottom of each can:
Warhol wanted his paintings hung to resemble a grocery store, but they were not hung in any order until MoMA hung them in chronological order according to their introduction dates onto the market (1).
These 32 paintings were considered a transitional point in Warhol’s artistic life because he switched from hand-painting to screen-printing (in which his Marilyn Monroe’s and comics are famous) (4). If I painted 32 of the same image, I would switch artistic style too!
Warhol coined the Pop art movement, changing art to its current phase in our history. Pop art challenged every meaning of what an artist is. Pop art is not original: it absorbs pop culture (1). Just like Jasper Johns, Warhol chose common objects in which to create. However, instead of a flag, Warhol chose Campbell’s soup cans and Marylin Monroe.
“I don’t think art should be only for the select few,” Warhol believed, “I think it should be for the mass of the American people.” (2)
In this quote, Warhol is describing a conformist and unified America. He wants his art to be relative to the mass consumption of society. Campbell’s Soup Cans points out the uniformity of Cambell’s soup cans, but also the uniformity of American citizens in Suburban Consumption. In the 50s and 60s, people were scared because of bomb threats, and thus found closure in family bonds and consumption (3). In my opinion, this increase in consumer products and labels made everyone (aka Nuclear Families) all the same. So maybe American culture was all about conformity and even over-looked because of how similar everyone seemed.
This feeling of being over-looked is displayed in Campbell’s Soup Cans because every can looks the same, but when you spend time to really look, they are all different flavors and there are subtle differences. This is just like how students, women, anyone who was NOT a white middle-class man because they were over-looked on their ideals and opinions (3).
1. MoMA learning. 2014. http://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/andy-warhol-campbells-soup-cans-1962.
2. MoMa – The Collection. Andy Warhol. Campbell’s Soup Cans. MoMa Highlights. 2004. http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=79809.
3. Krome-Lukens, Anna. In-class lecture 2015.
4. Phaidon. The fascinating story behind Andy Warhol’s soup cans. http://www.phaidon.com/agenda/art/articles/2013/february/22/the-fascinating-story-behind-andy-warhols-soup-cans/
5. Andy Warhol Synopsis. The Art Story Foundation. http://www.theartstory.org/artist-warhol-andy.htm