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April 29, 2023

Andy Warhol’s Polaroid Self-Portraits With Skulls, 1977

After he was shot and critically injured in 1968, Andy Warhol became even more obsessed with the theme of death than he had been previously. Following this, it was ten years before he returned to self-portraiture and when he did, the skull, a traditional symbol of mortality, featured heavily.

The inclusion of a skull suggests he was working within the ‘memento mori’ tradition, which aims to remind us that we shall all die. This screenprinted painting is based on one of several photographs of Warhol posing with a skull on his shoulder or head. The blood-red background is broken up by violent, black brush-strokes which enclose the image. Warhol’s penetrative gaze and slightly open mouth are echoed in the skull, heightening the tension.

Andy Warhol — who famously said that, “In the future, everybody will be famous for 15 minutes” — was known for his portraits of influential and powerful celebrities, business people, and socialites. He was obsessed with wealth and fame. For him, success in business was also art. He was a visionary who predicted a consumer society. As he assembled a motley cast of studio assistants and “Superstar” actors at his Factory studio in New York, Warhol himself became a pop culture icon — and eventually one of the most important artists of the 20th century.


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