Lobster and Cat

Nature morte avec chat et homard (Still life with cat and lobster), Pablo Picasso, 1962

 
 

Le homard et le chat (Lobster and Cat), Pablo Picasso, 1965

 
 

Lobster and Cat attests to the artist’s unbreakable energy during the last few years of his life. The oil painting demonstrates Pablo Picasso’s skill at depicting apparently humorous subjects in a serious manner: both animals are, potentially, as innocent as they are dangerous. The cat looks threatening, and is confronted by a crustacean in attack mode. Some art critics point out that the subject’s predecessor was La Raie (The Skate, 1728, Musée du Louvre, Paris), by French artist Jean-Baptiste-Simeón Chardin.

The surprising thing about Picasso’s painting is that he is able to retain the humorous anecdote of an eighteenth-century painting while focussing on and highlighting the encounter between the cat and the lobster, in an effective metaphor of aggression and defence, both provoked by fear. Picasso worked a number of times on transforming the monumental to the miniature, the trifling to the significant, and vice versa.

Lobster and Cat became part of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum collection in 1991 thanks to the legacy of Hilde Thannhauser, the second wife of Justin K. Thannhauser, who had worked with his father, Heinrich, at the famous Munich gallery that bore his name. Strong supporters of the Avant-garde art movement with their excellent and eclectic programme of exhibitions, the Thannhausers put on the first major Pablo Picasso retrospective in 1913, at their Moderne Galerie. This was the start of a close relationship between Justin K. Thannhauser and the artist which was to last until Picasso’s death in 1973. The top left-hand corner of Lobster and Cat carries a dedication, “Pour Justin”, signed by his “ami”, Picasso. Under the terms of the Thannhauser legacy, the holdings are to be on display almost permanently in the galleries devoted to the collection at the museum building in New York. This is why Lobster and Cat has very rarely been seen outside New York.

 
 

La Raie (The Skate), by Jean-Baptiste-Simeón Chardin, 1728

 
 

A renowned French artist of the 18th Century, Chardin was well known for his still-life works and genre paintings. His refined and realistic style had a lasting influence on some of the greatest artists of the 19th and 20th Centuries, including Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954), Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906), and of course, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). His depictions were of simple subjects, but masterful in their execution.

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Still-Life Polaroids

Still-life polaroids taken by Andy Warhol, from 1977 to 1983

 
 

Andy Warhol used photography as an integral part of his art making process. He referred to his Polaroid Big Shot camera, which he purchased in 1970, as his “pencil and paper.” The Polaroid prints, instantaneously tangible records of the transitory, served as subjects for Warhol’s drawings, silkscreens, and paintings.

Meticulous arrays of knives, and crosses contrast with jumbled assemblages of shoes and other commercial products, including Warhol’s iconic soup cans and Brillo boxes. Warhol often deploys multiplication and varying degrees of order to alter and enliven quotidian objects. In other compositions, such as a single gray human heart presented on a vibrant red plate, individual subjects in the picture frame gain potency in isolation. Recurrent themes of desire, consumption, and mortality run throughout. The rarity of these works, coupled with the dwindling production of Polaroid film, capturing the dual aspect of a specific time in both Warhol’s practice and the history of photography.

Warhol’s French Look

The French Look, blotted line drawing by Andy Warhol, 1950

 
 

The French Look is one of many shoe illustrations Andy Warhol created using a special type of line drawing known as the blotted line technique. Warhol first experimented with blotted line while still a college student at Carnegie Institute of Technology. When asked in 1978 how he got the idea, he responded, “Well, it was just that I didn’t like the way I drew. I guess we had to do an ink blot or something, and then I realized you can do an ink blot and do that kind of look, and then it would look printed somehow.” Warhol continued to craft this technique in his commercial work in New York City throughout the 1950s. Blotted line enabled him to create a variety of illustrations along a similar theme. This type of production allowed him to bring multiple ideas to clients and increase the odds one of his drawings would be chosen for the final advertisement.

Blotted line combines drawing with very basic printmaking. Warhol began by copying a line drawing on a piece of non-absorbent paper, such as tracing paper. Next he hinged this piece of paper to a second sheet of more absorbent paper by taping their edges together on one side. With an old fountain pen, Warhol inked over a small section of the drawn lines then transferred the ink onto the second sheet by folding along the hinge and lightly pressing or “blotting” the two papers together. Larger drawings were made in sections. Completing a large blotted line drawing could take quite a bit of time and multiple pressings. The process resulted in the dotted, broken, and delicate lines that are characteristic of Warhol’s illustrations. Warhol often colored his blotted line drawings with watercolor dyes or applied gold leaf.

Vito Giallo, who was hired as Warhol’s first commercial art assistant in 1953, later described how Warhol achieved the blotted line effect.

Vito Giallo:
“I was working in an advertising agency where they used his [Warhol’s] work and everybody in the studio, and it was a very good studio, couldn’t figure out how he did the blotted line… So not until I worked for him did I discover [how he did it] – and it was extremely simple – he just took a piece of Strathmore paper and folded it in half and on the left he would do the pencil drawing and then take pen and ink – india ink – and then slowly go over the line and blot it over and then go back and forth to get a perfect register. And so, in the end, we would have the copy more or less and then the original we would tear off and throw away.”

Andy Warhol from A to Z

Typographic poster by Pepe Gimeno featured on the book CaligrTipografía? (2001)

 
 

Pepe typeface (2001)

 
 

Pepe, a type face created by Spanish graphic designer Pepe Gimeno, is inspired by the calligraphy Andy Warhol used on his first illustrations which, in fact, were written by Julia Warhola, Andy’s mother. The design of this type face shows certain nonchalant allure, freshness and vitality.  It seems as if every single letter was made with a caress. It’s an uninhibited and reckless type which was awarded the certificate of excellence in Typographic Design, 2001.

 
 

Cover of The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B & Back Again) is a 1975 book by the American artist Andy Warhol (1928-1987).

 
 

A loosely formed autobiography by Andy Warhol, told with his trademark blend of irony and detachment, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol—which, with the subtitle “(From A to B and Back Again),” is less a memoir than a collection of riffs and reflections—he talks about love, sex, food, beauty, fame, work, money, and success; about New York, America, and his childhood in McKeesport, Pennsylvania; about his good times and bad in New York, the explosion of his career in the sixties, and his life among celebrities.

The Philosophy… was ghostwritten by Warhol’s secretary Pat Hackett and Interview magazine editor Bob Colacello. Much of the material is drawn from conversations Warhol had taped between himself and Colacello and Brigid Berlin.