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Andy Warhol: From Nowhere to Up There

an oral history of Andy Warhol's early years

by Gary Comenas

to: page numbers and topics

page twenty-one

Rainer Crone: Among the many different kinds of writing, including belles letters, on the subject of shoes and boots, one book stands out: The Romance of the Shoe, Being the History of Shoemaking in All Ages and especially in England and Scotland (London 1922) by the historian Thomas Wright. This is the standard work on the history of footwear. The illustrations it contains may well have served to provide Warhol with patterns and ideas for some of his collages and drawings on the subject of shoes. (RCA64)

Charlie Scheips (Curator): He [Warhol] became well known for his shoe drawings in publishing circles of New York – producing his book À la Recherche du Shoe Perdu in 1955.  That same year, Warhol also landed the lucrative contract to illustrate weekly the I. Miller shoe company ads for The New York Times. By this time, he was regularly illustrating shoes in [Harpers] Bazaar. It is not unreasonable to conjecture that Warhol’s exposure in Bazaar played a helpful role in his securing the I. Miller job. By chance, that same issue also featured an excerpt of Truman Capote’s novel The Grass Harp just in advance of its publication… (AM3)

Donna De Salvo: In 1955 he [Warhol] began working on one of the shoe industry’s most sophisticated marketing campaigns when he became sole illustrator for I. Miller & Sons Shoes. At the time I. Miller was attempting to create an entirely new image for the company and planned to employ commercial strategies that made use of repetition in order to drive home the message of this new image.  (DD9)

Patrick S. Smith: Geraldine Stutz was an art director for Glamour and then became, during the mid-1950s, head of the retail division of the fashionably exclusive shoe corporation I. Miller. She hired Warhol as the sole illustrator of the company's advertisements in the Sunday edition of the New York Times until I. Miller was bought in 1957 by Genesco, Inc. (PSC101)

Geraldine Stutz: [I first met Warhol] in the late forties or early fifties. And I was a just-out-of-school fashion editor at Glamour and Andy a just-out-of-school artist-illustrator... I think some of the first things he did professionally were illustrations for some of my shoe stories in Glamour. Even though it was a somewhat smaller world then, and everyone involved in fashion knew everyone, so Andy and I knew one another from that time onwards. But my real association with Andy came at I. Miller. And I think I. Miller was perhaps his, one of his initial big commercial projects. Peter Palazzo, who was the brilliant art director of I. Miller, got Andy to do shoe painting for Miller, which consisted of, oh, two years of full pages and half pages of [the] Sunday [New York] Times. (PSC102-3)

Peter Palazzo (art director for I. Miller): My first graphics job was in the art studio of a print shop that specialized in theatrical work - from flyers to three-sheet posters printed from woodtype... I moved on to work for Amerika, a pre-Cold War magazine produced by the State Department. We sent Amerika to Russia in exchange for a Russian magazine circulated in this country...

 While creative director at I. Miller, I introduced Andy Warhol to the art world at the time. He was an unknown freelance illustrator, who I had used during my time with Amerika, and he had done some shoe illustrations for other magazines. He had an interesting technique that I felt I could adapt to make big and dramatic black-and-white advertising, so I put him on contract for a couple of years... At first we didn't let him sign his art, but then we thought it looked chic to have a signature on our ads. Even then, before he became famous, he was good at self-publicity and used to frame his shoe illustrations and give them to all the fashion ladies. Then he took what he had learned from the graphics world and became an icon of the '60s. Incredible. (TSP5)

Geraldine Stutz: I. Miller was a beautiful old name, fashion name, in shoes - probably the most recognizable name in shoes - probably  still is in this country. Shoes are synonymous with I. Miller... That was a reputation that had been built by 'old' I. Miller, whose name was Israel, Ivan Israel, and who was a theatrical shoemaker with an enormous flair for promotion. (PSC103)

From Israel Miller's obituary by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 1929: Mr. Miller was wont to attribute his success to a 'lucky dollar' he found in Union Square. One morning in 1893, shortly after he had formed a partnership with a man who had been soliciting orders for custom shoes, Miller, who had no orders on hand and whose wife and four children were hungry, was walking along Union Square. He saw a $1 bill lying in the street. Picking it up, he hurried home and the family had a meal. When he got back to his shop, a man came in and ordered a pair of shoes. From then on orders came in, and as success came to him, Mr. Miller laid it to the $1 bill, which he called his lucky piece. (JT)

Geraldine Stutz: it was a successful business, and the name was magic, but it had got a little old-hat, a little passé... slightly over-the-hill. The campaign that Peter designed and that Andy was the artist [for] - the brilliant artist - made an enormous difference in how the name I. Miller was perceived by women. It made it contemporary, up-to-date... (PSC103-104)

Peter Palazzo: For I. Miller I wanted a strong technique that would stand out. I started with Bob Gill. Well, he had a very strong technique, a kind of wood-cut too. He left, and we needed somebody else. Andy was then doing shoe drawings for Harper’s Bazaar. We thought, at that point, he was good for ads and he was familiar with shoes.… Andy worked specifically on shoes for I. Miller. He had a contract – for 'x' ads for 'x' fee. Andy did ads for retail only. Others were doing wholesale ads… Mostly they were Sunday ads. We mostly used the Sunday Times… also, the Herald Tribune… rarely the News if there was a sale. We had a limited budget. Usually, we’d allow two, three days to a week, but some deadlines were a day, even a few hours. (PSC108-111)

Donna De Salvo: Geraldine Stutz, the fashion editor who was the company's vice-president at the time, remembered that the [advertising] campaign ...was meant to give the impression... of a fresh and modern Miller rather than a stodgy, old-fashioned Miller... it was the beginning of an era when one... sold the sizzle and not the steak. (DD9)

Peter Palazzo: We used him [Warhol] primarily because he had a style and a technique that was very reminiscent of Ben Shahn [who] was a lot more expensive and not available. (PSC108)

Fred Lawrence Guiles: ... Richard Banks, who was raised in a pristine Palm Beach, Florida, in the 1930s and 40s, had been brought to the I. Miller Shoe Company as a designer. He had the same skills as Andy, but he was soon assigned to 'designing windows for I. Miller, which, regrettably, paid me much less than Andy was getting paid.' (FG108)

[Note: Guiles notes that Warhol was paid a $50,000 a year retainer from I. Miller -  the equivalent of more than $400,000 in 2014. (FG131) g.c.]

Richard Banks: ...designing all the windows for I. Miller...paid me less than Andy was getting paid. But quite often Andy would have to utilize one of my drawings in his ads, or I would have to utilize an ad from the New York Times in my window design...

[When I first met Warhol] I had come up from Florida. It was snowing and I wanted to meet Andy because I knew of his work already. Here was this kind of goony guy, talking this baby talk, and he said, 'Oh, you've got a suntan. Were you in Florida?' His voice was a bit like Marilyn Monroe's. He did that kind of thing, and he said, 'what colour is your bathing suit?' and I said, 'turquoise.' Then he said 'Gee whiz! Why didn't you wear it to the party?' Finally you got used to it, but it didn't amuse me, and I think Andy knew that it didn't because I knew there was a little computer brain in there going ninety miles an hour. I never liked the gag, but other people liked it... (FG110-11)

[Note: As with Warhol, Bank's work included LP illustration. A drawing by him of Gertrude Stein graced the 1963 album cover for The Making of Americans - Gertrude Stein as read by Marian Seldes. (Folkways FL 9742) g.c.]

Patrick S. Smith: Among his commercial artwork, Warhol [also] did freelance window displays for Gene Moore and then for Daniel Arje at Bonwit Teller. This exclusive department store’s display department employed other artists, including Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and James Rosenquist...  (PS29)

John Loring (design director of Tiffany & Co.): When he [Warhol] went to see Gene Moore in 1955, he had just begun to draw I. Miller’s shoe ads for publication in the New York Times. The ads, with their whimsically decorated shoes, had a witty, sophisticated, card-like quality to them. They earned him an Art Directors Club Award for Distinctive Merit in 1956 and a second such award, along with an Art Directors Club Medal, in 1957. By winter 1957, he was in the book 1,000 New York Names and Where to Drop Them. (JL8-9)

Gene Moore: … Andy Warhol was reasonably well known by the time he came to see me, although he was still being called Raggedy Andy, not because his work was sloppy, but because of his appearance. He’d had success with book-jacket designs for such publishers as New Directions and with his drawings and paintings for I. Miller shoe ads… I used Warhol’s art in several of my perfume windows at Bonwit’s. In July 1955, just before my work began at Tiffany’s, I made some wooden fences, and he covered them with graffiti for a series of windows. They were fun, full of a childish playfulness. (GM69)

Calvin Tomkins: Dan Arje, who took over the display department at Bonwit's when Moore went to Tiffany's full time, was equally enthusiastic about Andy. Andy was a real pro. He understood deadlines, and where other artists might freeze up under the pressure of having to do a window in two or three evening hours, Andy would just come in and go right to work, painting freehand on the inside of the glass his witty and whimsical images - cherubs, pin cushions, ice-cream fantasies. (CT10)

Charles Lisanby: ... he [Warhol] was doing the I. Miller shoe ads. And it was always fun for me to buy the Times because... I would find my initials all over the place in the corners and things. And he did some windows for Bonwit Teller's. And he just went in and painted all over the window and things, and one of them was just 'C.L. C.L.' all over the place. (PS369)

to page twenty-two

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