American Icons: Warhol's Soup Cans

Friday, September 21, 2012

Campbell's soup cans, warhol Feature Card_Big2

Andy Warhol told people he painted soup because he ate it for lunch every day, but 50 years later, the paintings remain mysterious.

Around 1961, Andy Warhol started painting cans of Campbell's soup, in all 32 varieties. He liked to tell people that his mother made him Campbell's soup and that's why he painted it.

The soup cans are probably the most recognizable images in American art, and Warhol intended it that way. He borrowed the Campbell's brand fame to help make his own; he appeared in Time in 1962 as part of the Pop revolution that was remaking art — destroying the serious, sublime aspirations of artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Warhol was doing Campbell's soup at the same time he was painting Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor. In his art, Campbell's was a "star" like a movie pinup.

But as obvious as they look, the paintings are still mysterious today: Why paint something you can buy in a grocery store? What did Warhol mean? Studio 360's David Krasnow looked for answers.

(Originally aired: June 2, 2006)

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Produced by:

David Krasnow

Comments [7]

chris mccawley

in the 1956 movie "Nightfall" Aldo Ray tells Ann Bancroft over drinks that he is an artist..."soup cans or sunsets" she asks...... this movie dialog predates Warhols soup cans by five or six years...

Jun. 14 2013 10:24 PM

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Mar. 07 2013 07:22 AM
Franc Palaia from Poughkeepsie, NY

On the comment that Warhol was a mediocre painter. His early paintings, where he actually painted them with a brush on canvas were adequate for what he was trying to portray, like a flat, cartoonish Dick Tracy, or dance steps, etc., but later his works,as in the celebrity portraits were really large silkscreen prints on canvas with slathered color underneath the screen printing to make them look like they were painted. This was a hybrid technique that Warhol invented I think because it was much easier and faster to crank out the works. It also allowed him to incorporate his photography which was a major part of his celebrity activity which made him look creative in public places. Rather than just standing around looking bored and famous. In the end, it almost doesn't matter if he was a mediocre painter because it was his ideas that were more important and the skill of painting.

Sep. 30 2012 04:35 PM
kevin from upper LS

i think david krasnow [spell?] is a bit full of it,to call a 'balance bar' or a 'luna bar' "fake food". true,it's not an optimal nutrition food in and of itself,but compared to most fast food,and most of the almost completely synthetic schlop, that many americans consume;these candy/health bars are actually not too shabby.

Sep. 29 2012 10:53 AM
art525 from Park Slope

I was sitting here listening to Wayne Kostenbaum and thinking about how pretentious and full of it he is and then he talked about how deKooning condmend Warhol at a party. Kostenbaum said that Andy and Pop were an antidote to the pretense of Abstract Expressionism. Apparently not since Warhol has been the source of such pretense and the planet that such pretentious satellites as Kostenbaum circle. And I think what deKooning was right, as was Barbara Rose in that it demolished satnadards for what is art.

Sep. 23 2012 11:43 AM
Matthew Guy from Brooklyn

There's at least one example of an artist painting a Campbell's soup can before Warhol. A fairly obscure American artist named Luigi Lucioni painted an interesting Still Life with Telephone in 1926, where the red and white can is most certainly Campbell's soup. I was struck by this detail when I first saw the canvas at the Huntington Library in Pasadena. And it was recently included in the Youth and Beauty show at the Brooklyn Museum. Have a look:$00402662/0?t:state:flow=6a7f03b8-2e95-459c-8eef-788d84aa4b35

Sep. 22 2012 04:38 PM
Robert W French from Arlington, VA

I highly disagree with Barbra Rose's label that Warhol was a "mediocre painter." First of all, he was an excellent designer and drawer (see his commercial art from the 1950s.) Yes, he was not painting in the manner of the painter, abstract style as Pollock or De Kooning. In the context of the new art of the early 1960s, I am sure they looked printed, graphic, reproduced with no signs of the artist. but if you look at them now, they WERE paintings with smudges, drips, inconsistent prints on the same canvas, etc. They are GREAT paintings. Yes, the symbolism and what he was promoting at the time was the notion of the mundane and that everyone could do this (All artists since Michelangelo have created myths surrounding their art and art production.) The reality can't be further from the truth. His studio shop (called the Factory) was a creative space with where paintings were planned out, designed, painted (Yes, printed, but basically a different tool than a brush in Warhol's case.) worked and reworked. I understand the segment was only 10 minutes, but this perpetual myth does an injustice to Warhol, who was one of the great Masters of the twentieth century.

Sep. 22 2012 03:00 PM

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