Cats and Dogs by Andy Warhol

In 1954 Andy Warhol, a renowned cat lover, published a series of 25 cat portraits in book form. Printed on limited edition, hand colored and watermarked Arches paper, the etchings were privately printed and made as a Christmas keepsake. He named his book 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy. He originally intended it to say “…Named Sam”, but his mother, who did the lettering, omitted the “d” and Warhol thought the final version was fine.

In the 1950s, Warhol purchased a brownstone where he and his mother resided. And though they had had cats for twenty years, his series of cat portraits were not based on the cats he lived with and knew. Instead, they were based on the photographs of New York cat photographer Walter Chandoha.

In the 1970s, Warhol’s interest in cats waned and his interest in dogs increased. His boyfriend decided that they should have a short-haired Dachshund puppy. They named the dog “Archie”. Warhol was so taken with Archie that he became his alter ego. Because he held Archie up during interviews, when Warhol didn’t want to answer a particular question, he simply diverted the questions to Archie. Warhol took the dog everywhere: to his studio, to art openings, to dinner parties, to photo shoots, and to London when his work took him there.

When Archie was almost three years old, another Dachshund came onto the scene. They named this dog “Amos”. The three of them got along great. Amos and Archie ran around the house barking, chasing and playing with each other while providing constant entertainment for Warhol. Everything was fine, except now Archie would be staying at home with his new friend Amos instead of walking around town with Warhol.

In 1976, art collector Peter Brant commissioned Andy Warhol to paint his Cocker Spaniel named Ginger. Andy did two paintings of Ginger, as well as drawings. Peter Brant liked these so much that he thought Warhol should do a whole series of cat and dog drawings. Andy also liked the idea. He would open a new commissioned portrait area and give her the opportunity to use Archie and Amos in his work. All she lacked was a cat to fit the modeling mold.

Warhol liked to work from photographs. He had a hard time organizing his pets and keeping them still. He decided to use stuffed animals for his first cat and dog photos. Vincent Fremont at Artnet called the finished paintings of these stuffed creatures “creepy and macabre.” The paintings; however, the ones Warhol completed from photographs of cats and dogs are said to be vibrant and full of personality.

After a while, he began to dabble in other arts, including underground films that explored the shock value of nudity, greed, and sexuality. In 1976, after his hiatus from mainstream art pursuits, Peter Brant organized Warhol’s Cats and Dogs series to be exhibited in New York and London.

After Warhol’s period of drawing and painting cats and dogs, he began with artistic renderings of Campbell’s Soup cans and his focus on pop culture as seen in his Marilyn Monroe-centric works. After his mother’s death, Warhol became more distant from the public eye. Warhol left behind his journals which were later published in a book. While many say his input is “mundane,” those who study his art discover that he leaves behind a story: a postmodern story that is very much reflective of his beliefs, ties, and a life devoted to the exploratory arts.

Copyright © 2008 Melanie Light