“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players,
They have their exits and entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then, the whining schoolboy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice
In fair round belly, with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav’d, a world too wide,
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again towards childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”
Andy Warhol, Skulls, 1976-1977
Andy Warhol had bought a skull at a flea market in Paris, France, around 1975 and when he came back to New York, started the Skulls series. Warhol was encouraged to developing the series by his business manager Fred Hughes who reminded him that artist such as Francisco de Zurbarán and Pablo Picasso had used that object with great expressive effect.
In this work of art, supposedly by chance, the shadow did get the shape of a baby’s head, and after Warhol noticed that coincidence, he compared that paintings as a representation of the ages of life.
Principal to Andy Warhol’s reputation as the most significant and influential visual artist of the later Twentieth Century is his obsession with the iconic and with death, and his revolution in image repetition. More than any others, these are the features that inspired his artistic canon and thereby changed western visual culture. It is difficult to conceive of a more concentrated manifestation of these characteristics than the present work: ten individually stunning canvases that repeatedly represent the icon of the skull; the literal multiplication of death.