warhol’s harper’s bazaar years

7 Jun

Harpers spread, May 1958

Andy Warhol, as you may know, got his big break at Harper’s Bazaar Magazine.

A few months ago, I went to a meeting hosted in the Hearst Tower in Manhattan (the new home to magazines like Bazaar and its friends).   And while tripping over my feet staring at the art on the walls outside our conference room (“a Chuck Close is just hanging there…!”) I happened upon an exhibition catalog written on behalf of, and recognizing, Andy’s time at the magazine.   Sadly, I missed the actual show and the accompanying party, but it sounded like fun.

Shoes, Harpers, March 1956

Makeup, Harpers, July 1956

Between 1951 and 1964, Warhol created tons of illustrations and art-directed a handful of spreads for the fashion magazine.   And back then, people didn’t keep original artwork – so the only evidence of this work that exists comes from the pages of vintage magazines themselves.  I’ve taken the liberty of scanning some spreads (above) from the catalog to share the amazing visual style he displayed early on in his career.   As Charlie Shieps, author of the catalog, described, “His drawing had an idiosyncratic style and visual impact in print that appealed to art directors both for their whimsy and linear elan.”  So, in other words, he got work because it appealed to his bosses. An entrepreneur in action.

And just as it’s always fascinating to read earlier novels from a writer you’ve just discovered, or listen to back catalog discs from a new band, it’s equally rich to see how Warhol’s work for the magazine was the initial proving ground for his photo-booth portraits, his experimentation with technique (rubber-stamped reproductions as the precursor to silkscreening), and his liberal ‘borrowing’ of source materials.

But what I found most interesting about the whole thing was how strongly I found myself attracted to this work, despite not having much of an emotional ‘feeling’ for Warhol in general.  (Art history majors would probably tell me that’s the point…)  I’ve written about him once before, but never found a reason to mention his own work as a beautiful and decorative option for a bedroom or living room.   So I stand corrected.



The posters are available at AllPosters.com, here on Amazon,  or at Art.com.  They’re from the same time period as his magazine work – roughly 1956-1958.   You can find cats, shoes, (DVF-logo) lips, among other things.  They’re a great way to introduce one of our great artists to your kids without having to travel the well-worn Marilyn/soup can route (they’ll find it  on their own soon enough).   Skipping back a few years from an artist’s famous period is always fascinating… if you’re ever seeking inspiration, it can help you make some interesting discoveries.

Lastly, here’s a great article by Tama Janowitz on why people miss Andy Warhol.

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One Response to “warhol’s harper’s bazaar years”

  1. Theola Neeson December 15, 2012 at 4:45 am #

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