Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jewish Personalities painted by Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol is argued to be the most prolific artist of the second half of the 20th century. He is known for his famous, vibrant colour paintings of Marilyn Manroe and Campbell’s Soup cans. However, in 1980, he painted something dramatically different entitled, “Ten Portraits of Jews of the 20th Century”. Why did he do this? Art dealer Ronald Feldman had the idea which came to him from an Israeli art dealer who wanted paintings of Golda Meir. Eventually the idea unravelled into 10 Jews who impacted the 20th Century. Feldman with Susan Morgenstein created the list and Warhol chose them for their interesting looks. So it might not be the perfect list of the best 20th Century Jews. However, when one looks at the list, it is quite diverse with some interesting names one might not know.
When these paintings debuted to the world, they were ridiculed by the press. The Philadelphia Inquirer called it “Jewploitation” and Hilton Kramer in The New York Times said that “The way it exploits its Jewish subjects without showing the slightest grasp of their significance is offensive — or would be, anyway, if the artist had not already treated so many non-Jewish subjects in the same tawdry manner.” In hindsight however, these paintings have more meaning. Today, Andy Warhol is simply one of the most prolific painters of the 20th century and his paintings might truly be a commentary on the mass media world. Warhol was utterly taken with the celebrity aura. These paintings have a highly superficial feeling to them. They convey something important. In the modern day, many of us know names of famous people but don’t really know why they are famous or have never looked at their work. In their superficial manner, these paintings comment on that societal trait. (new understanding from Richard Meyer from the Jewish Museum’s exhibit of Warhol’s Jews: 10 Portraits Reconsidered). 
Let’s take a look at some of these Jewish geniouses and why they are as such (in a phrase or two, just so you have something to talk about over cocktails).

Sigmund Freud: father of psychoanalysis.
Gertrude Stein: Famous American writer and poet
Albert Einstein: Seen as founder of modern physics
Franz Kafka: Avant-garde artist
Sarah Bernhardt: Prolific actress
George Gershwin: Brilliant composer and songwriter
Golda Meir: First female Prime Minister of Israel
Louis Brandeis: First Jew to sit on the American Supreme Court
Martin Buber: Renowned theologian
Groucho, Chico and Harpo Marx: Famous comedic troupe

1 comment:

  1. hezzi = champion. LOVE this post. Who knew!!!