First exhibited in 1962 in Los Angeles, Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans transformed the artist into an overnight sensation. A food staple found in millions of American households, Warhol transformed the familiar image of the Campbell’s soup can into high art: he presented the cans as legitimate subjects in the traditional form of still life painting. Today, the Campbell’s soup can is ubiquitous with Warhol and the Pop Art movement.
The 1962 Los Angeles exhibition – organized by Irving Blum, director of the Ferus Gallery – was Warhol’s first one-man exhibition, as well as the West Coast’s introduction to Pop Art. The exhibition featured thirty-two “portraits” of soup cans, each identical except for the flavor inscribed on their labels. Warhol had begun using silkscreen printing earlier that year; his use of the medium would transform the landscape of late twentieth-century art. The semi-mechanized process, along with the non-painterly quality in which the commercial products were presented, sparked both heated criticism and intense interest in Warhol and Pop Art. In many ways, the Campbell’s Soup Cans, and their Pop Art style, represented a direct affront to abstract expressionism. The abstract expressionist movement, which had dominated in the United States following World War II, held closely to “fine art” ideas and aesthetics.
Following the success of Campbell’s Soup Cans in 1962, Warhol continued to produce variations of the iconic image throughout his career. Campbell’s Soup II – ten screenprints on paper – was printed in 1969. The soups in the portfolio include Old Fashioned Vegetable, Scotch Broth, Vegetarian Vegetable, New England Clam Chowder, Chicken ‘n Dumplings, Hot Dog Bean, Oyster Stew, Tomato-Beef Noodle O’s, Golden Mushroom, and Cheddar Cheese . Campbell’s Soup II was printed by Salvatore Silkscreen Co., Inc. and published by Factory Additions, New York.