Design Under the Influence: Andy Warhol

Cheryl Tiegs by Andy Warhol (Martyn Lawrence-Bullard)

Hello again, it’s Erika from small shop with a ninth edition of "Design Under the Influence" — hard to believe! I’ve really been struck by the use of Andy Warhol portraits in interiors lately, so I thought it would be fun to talk a little about the artist, his process, and his place in art history.


You probably know that Andy Warhol was an artist in the 1960’s that produced work as part of the Pop Art movement. But he was in fact a famous commercial artist and graphic designer for hire initially, creating illustrations for high-end fashion magazines and clientele. During this period, he developed a style based on inking his illustrations of mass-produced objects to emulate a mechanical process — interesting, as we all know how where he ended up taking this technique!

As Roy Lichenstein started painting cartoon strips, and Jasper Johns explored symbolism and typography, Warhol looked to establish his own signature style with a unique subject matter. But it wasn’t until Marilyn Monroe’s untimely death in 1962, that he explored the use of serial silkscreen printing with bright colors, as if to bring her back to life.

Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol, 1962


Let’s remember Warhol was initially an artist for hire. In that way, he was able to make a business of his art, making his studio into a factory, and the artwork into a product that was commissioned and/or mass-produced. His process was mechanical, extremely thought-out, and quite intricate.

When commissioned by a famous individual, Warhol would have the client come into his studio to be styled and photographed. Next, he would select one of the Polaroids, mark where it needed to be cropped, and send out the negative to a photo lab to be blown up onto acetate, which he would then position onto a canvas as a guide to paint the patches of color of (or trace with pencil) the subject’s face. After silkscreening from the acetate, he would press ink through it onto this painted canvas. Using the same silkscreen, he could create several painted versions as the backdrop, creating series.

Debbie Harry sitting for Andy Warhol, 1980

Warhol selecting a Polaroid to be used

Warhol creating a silkscreen print


In the context of the 1960’s, photography was not considered an art form; Hollywood cinema was just starting to become embedded into the fabric of American culture; art was not a commercial product. Andy Warhol recognized that times were a-changin’, challenged convention, and modernized the art world. And in a way, immortalized his subjects. It is remarkable to think that with the sale of his "Eight Elvises" canvas for $100 million, Warhol joins the ranks of Picasso, Van Gogh, Renoir and Klimt. And his popularity continues.

I get excited when I see interior designers use a Warhol portrait as the main element in a room, and sometimes build an entire scheme around it. Or, a room will be quite simple but for one standout Warhol portrait. Now that you know some of the history behind them, do they stand out even more to you? Not so kitschy after all.

Grace Kelly by Andy Warhol (Martyn Lawrence-Bullard for Tamara Mellon)

Mick Jagger by Andy Warhol (James McInroe)

Diane von Furstenberg series by Andy Warhol

Liz Taylor by Andy Warhol (Todd Romano)

Mao by Andy Warhol (Lauren Santo Domingo for Vogue APT)

Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol (Todd Romano)

Liz Taylor by Andy Warhol (Todd Romano)

Mick Jagger series by Andy Warhol (Taylor Hannah)

drag queen series by Andy Warhol (Samantha Boardman for Vogue APT)

A Warhol dream! (Samantha Boardman for Vogue APT)

Want more Warhol? Come on over to small shop today to see Warhol’s polaroids of his celebrity subjects, and find out where you can go to see them in person!

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  1. To think at one time a long time ago before I was smart,I had a limited edition print of Marilyn and gave it away obviously not appreciating what it was.. so sad.