an oral history of Andy Warhol's early years
by Gary Comenas
7. The Soup Can
George Frei/Neil Prinz: The Campbell's Soup Can paintings were probably begun in December 1961 and occupied Warhol until March 1962, though other subjects intervened... The portrait types are based on illustrated images that were projected, traced, and methodically painted to show little evidence of the artist's hand....
The Campbell's portraits may be divided into two types, based on their distinct sources. One derives from an illustrated image reproduced in a magazine... These paintings have been classified.. as the "Mönchengladbach type," since the most widely known example of this type is the canvas on the left in a diptych in the Städtisches Museum Abteiberg...
The other type.... derives from the logo printed on a Campbell Soup Company label... and is referred to as the 'Ferus Type' since it was the basis for the series of thirty-two canvases that Warhol exhibited at the Ferus Gallery in the summer of 1962...
... a third general type of Campbell's Soup Can painting [such as Big Torn Campbell's Soup Can (Pepper Pot)], distinct from the paintings of single cans that make up the Mönchengladbach and Ferus types and the serial composition... were all based on photography by Edward Wallowitch... Edward Wallowitch was a professional photographer who met Warhol through Nathan Gluck, probably in the late 1950s... Warhol and Wallowitch also worked together on a project in which Wallowitch photographed Campbell Soup cans, Coca-Cola bottles, and dollar bills that Warhol had arranged either singly or in groups or manipulated through folding, crumpling, tearing, and rolling. (GF064/102/470)
David Bourdon: Although his paintings of Campbell's Soup cans were generating notoriety throughout the art world, Warhol was making little progress in his efforts to connect with a respected New York gallery. One of the more adventuresome dealers to visit him during the second half of 1961 was Allan Stone, who thought the pictures had 'something.' though he was put off by Warhol's flat, seemingly brushless technique. 'his paintings had no surface life,' said Stone, who favoured the lushly textured pigments of Abstract Expressionism, 'but I liked the bravura of the stacks of soup cans.' Stone took several of the works on consignment, including a large grid of one hundred Campbell's soup cans, and a big single soup can with a torn label, and stocked them in the back room of his gallery, then located at 18 East 82nd Street. He showed the pieces to potential buyers and possibly exhibited a small soup-can picture in a December 1961 group show. (DB100)
George Frei/Neil Prinz: The serial compositions were made from stencils that Warhol cut from a photograph of a single can and stenciled across the surface of several large canvases and, in one instance, on the sides of a painted wooden box... Warhol painted the stencils both by hand and with spray paint... After the stencilled soup can paintings, Warhol used stamps that he carved from art-gum erasers, and silkscreens. (GF064/086)
Allan Stone (art dealer): When I went to his studio, there were all of these soup can paintings, including some painted with the labels peeling off. I had also been to the studios of James Rosenquist and Robert Indiana. I didn't want to make a serious commitment, so I wound up offering them a three-man show, but they turned me down. Warhol and the others were each holding out for their own show, which history proves they were smart to do. (RP138)
George Frei/Neil Printz: In the winter 1962 issue of Art in America, an article by Dorothy Gees Seckler titled 'Folklore of the Banal' cited Warhol and Wayne Thiebaud as being 'at the' Allan Stone Gallery, but there is no documentation that Stone represented Warhol. In an interview with David Bourdon, Stone remembered including a small Campbell's Soup Can painting at his gallery in a group show in December 1961... Stone also said that in late 1961 he took some Campbell's Soup Can paintings on consignment. It remains uncertain, however, whether Warhol's works were ever included in an exhibition at that gallery.
Allan Stone was one of the first New York art dealers to become involved with Warhol's paintings... A painting of one hundred soup cans (cat. no. 77 or 78) and Big Torn Campbell's Soup Can (Pepper Pot) (cat. no. 93) were consigned. (GF470)