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Andy Warhol’s 1950s fashion illustrations


Andy Warhol’s artistic career began when his father, recognising his son’s talent, saved up for him to study pictorial design at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. A sanctuary away from the noisy steel mills and factories where he grew up, the college helped Warhol unleash a range of new artistic skills, including his now famous blotted line technique. We take a look at some his lesser-known, but remarkably innovative, early illustrations.

After graduating in 1949, Warhol took a leap of faith and moved to New York to follow his dreams of becoming a professional illustrator. In 1952 Hugo Gallery presented his first solo exhibition with Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote. His blotted line technique proved a hit with art directors and he soon was regularly commissioned by Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar. 

His big break came when he produced a series of whimsical illustrations for I. Miller, a shoe designer for performers and movie stars. He even named various shoes illustrations after famous actors, dancers, and singers – high heels called Julie Andrews, Kate Smith, and Zsa Zsa Gabor, and spurred cowboy boots labelled Elvis Presley and James Dean.

Jerry Stutz, the president of I. Miller, summarised Warhol’s early genius in an interview in 1998: ‘Andy and I began a campaign, which was unprecedented at the time. We ran full pages, half pages, every Sunday in the New York Times. And it was a spectacular showcase for I. Miller and for Andy as well.’

‘It expanded his audience in a way that no magazine editorial ever could have. In a sea of tiny little images that were the pages of the Times, these bold blockbuster fantasies were extraordinarily effective. What the ads did was to revitalise and revive the I. Miller brand, and from a dowdy, musty, fusty, dusty, dowager establishment, it became a stylish emporium for debutantes.’ 

In 1955, Warhol collated his illustrations together and published them under the title, À la Recherche du Shoe Perdu – a playful riff on Marcel Proust’s famous novel À la recherche du temps perdu (In search of lost time).

During the 1950s, Warhol won many commendations and awards and became one of the most famous and sought after commercial illustrators in New York and his work appeared national publications including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and the New York Times.

By the end of the decade, he decided to set up Andy Warhol Enterprises Inc. to handle his business and moved to a stylish townhouse on Lexington Avenue with his mother, Julia Warhola. Creative herself, she often collaborated with her son to create decorative calligraphy that adorned much of his work.

Working in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in New York, we’re honoured to offer a range of Warhol’s fashion lIllustrations, iconic Marilyn Monroe prints, PhotographyTypography, and more.

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