Andy Warhol’s Flowers, 1964, sold for 8,146,500 at the Contemporary Art Part I sale, 12 May 2011, New York.
Andy Warhol’s Flowers, 1964 was produced during what was arguably the most significant time period of the artist’s career. Though Warhol had already experienced a great deal of success with his images of Campbell’s Soup Cans, Liz, Marilyn and Elvis, the year 1964 saw his dramatic and meteoric rise to fame. To round off an outstanding season, Leo Castelli scheduled a Warhol show to take place at his gallery from November to December of that year featuring the artist’s new Flowers paintings. The source of the image Warhol appropriated for this series first appeared in the June 1964 issue of Modern Photography, a photograph of hibiscus blossoms illustrating an article about color processing. Following the show at Castelli Gallery, critic David Bourdon described Warhol’s Flowers as “…cut out gouaches by Matisse set adrift on Monet’s lily pond” (The Village Voice, December 3, 1964). The color scheme is also highly evocative of Van Gogh’s Irises.
Culling inspiration from a seemingly banal source, using a lithographic process, Warhol produced only two or three basic designs in a variety of color schemes, each in a square format. The artist found this format particularly satisfying because its regular shape allowed these paintings to be hung with any side up. As Warhol himself explained, “I like painting on a square…because you don’t have to decide whether it should be longerlonger or shorter-shorter or longer-shorter: it’s just a square” (D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1989, p. 191).