DescriptionAndy Warhol (1928-1987)
Ethel Scull, 1963
Synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on canvas
19-3/4 x 16 inches (50.2 x 40.6 cm)
Estate of Andy Warhol stamp verso
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York;
Private collection, California, acquired directly from the above, October 2000.
N. Printz and G. Frei, The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné. Volume 1: Paintings and Sculpture, 1961-1963, Phaidon, New York and London, 2002, no. 473, p. 417, illustrated in color.
This lot is registered at the Andy Warhol Estate under number P060.035. This lot is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., signed and dated January 29, 2001.
Ethel Scull (1963) reflects a key moment in Andy Warhol's career. On the occasion of New Yorker Ethel Scull's 42nd birthday, her husband, Robert Scull, asked Warhol to paint her in the style of his Marilyn Diptych (1962), and the resulting portrait inspired hundreds of subsequent celebrity portrait commissions. As preparation for Ethel's birthday present, Warhol took her to a photo booth in Times Square and, from 36 of the hundreds of black-and-white images taken during the session, produced the silkscreen Ethel Scull 36 times (1963). The present lot, Ethel Scull, is based on one of the remaining photographs. Although the Sculls were already well-known art collectors, the "Ethel" artworks strengthened their identification with Pop art, which they collected and supported. At the same time, this event marked a central moment in Warhol's practice: the emergence of both his signature style and of his own status as a celebrity.
Ethel is reputed to have said of Ethel Scull 36 times that "it was a portrait of being alive." This statement counters critical interpretations of the Marilyn Diptych, which has been discussed as a fetish (Jean Baudrillard) or as a way to come to terms with the death of the actress (Hal Foster). In fact, "one commonality amongst these historians and critics is that they tend to analyze [the Marilyn Diptych] according to its social function or Warhol's psychology and identity" (R. Hooper, "The Beauties: Repetition in Andy Warhol's Paintings and Plato's Ascent to Beauty," in The Legacy of Antiquity, 2014, p. 219). Rather, Ethel Scull confirms Warhol's emerging interest in art as a form of personal branding. Indeed, Ethel, wearing a white shirt and Andy's black Wayfarer sunglasses, is a classic beauty. She could be any fashionable woman living in New York in 1963, and that is precisely how Warhol depicted her in photographs and portraits. Here, Warhol develops a tension between repetition/reproduction and individuality/uniqueness and questions the very nature of subjectivity: none of our feelings or ideas is ours alone. Much as in advertising, where the consumer plays a role by distinguishing between competing yet similar products, so does the viewer of Ethel Scull help shape her identity.
The art historian Edward Powers notes, "by acknowledging the limits of originality while, nevertheless, wresting it from the margins of repetition, Warhol's practice" demonstrates that "authenticity, like originality" does not "remain irreconcilably opposed to repetition" (E. Powers, "Attention Must Be Paid: Andy Warhol, John Cage and Gertrude Stein," 2014, p. 24). As such, Ethel Scull foregrounds the marriage between Warhol's celebrity portraits and common brand images from the early 1960s.
Condition report available upon request.
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