I was looking forward to hearing this talk by Christopher Maines, Conservation Scientist from the National Gallery of Art, on artist materials used by Andy Warhol in his earlier artworks, especially since it mentioned the possibility of traditional materials. Maines began his talk with a brief summary on Warhol’s early techniques as a commercial artist between 1949-1960, specifically the blotted-line technique. Warhol’s first pop paintings during 1960 and 1962 consisted of acrylic paints on primed, stretched canvas which he hand-painted, such as 1962’s A Boy for Meg. The end of the 1960s, Warhol moved into using hand-cut silk screens with synthetic polymer paints, such as 1962’s Green Marilyn. Warhol continued to use these silk screens and synthetic polymers into the 1980s, before dying in 1987. In summary, Warhol chose to use these particular materials because they were quick drying, offered a thrill or chancy nature, and Warhol was accepting of any imperfections which occurred during the creative process, such as drips.
Maines continued to discuss synthetic polymer paints and thoughts when they were originally introduced. The NGA began analysis of Warhol’s A Boy for Meg in preparation for an upcoming exhibition to determine it’s material composition. The artwork was sampled in four places and GC-MS analysis revealed Warhol was using drying oil and egg when he was transitioning from his commercial work into his pop paintings. It was likely that Warhol was using egg as a material because he was already familiar with its behavior. NGA was fortunate enough to be granted the opportunity to sample from two other artworks from this time period owned by museums in Germany: 129 DIE IN JET! and DAILY NEWS. Both revealed drying oil and egg in these samples, as acrylic paints over a ground layer consisting of drying oil and egg.
I found this talk very interesting, especially to know that Andy Warhol was using a mixture of traditional and modern materials in his artworks. Scientific analysis can provide such fantastic insight to the working materials and methods of artists and I am very glad NGA shared their findings for this time period of Warhol’s career at this year’s AIC Annual Meeting.
Any there any other Warhol fans out there? What are some of your favorites of Warhol works? If you could read the scientific analysis report for any famous artwork to find out exactly what the artist used, what would it be? Please share any thoughts or comments!
NOTE: Other authors on lecture are Suzanne Q. Lomax, Organic Chemist and Jay Krueger, Senior Conservator of Modern Paintings, both at the National Gallery of Art.