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ANDY WARHOL AT BONWIT TELLER NEW YORK CITY APRIL 1961 | by David Barsalou MFA
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ANDY WARHOL AT BONWIT TELLER NEW YORK CITY APRIL 1961

ANDY WARHOL AT BONWIT TELLER NEW YORK CITY

APRIL 1961

 

" In April 1961 Andy Warhol created a window display for the Bonwit Teller department store in New York City. Warhol's paintings were based exclusively on comic imagery and newspaper advertisements. That moment became a crucial turning point in Warhol’s transition from commercial to "mainstream" artist".

Arthur C. Danto

 

~ February 1961

Andy Warhol begins a series of Comic Book and Advertising paintings.

 

~ Warhol completes a number of works on canvas - Five of these were then displayed at Bonwit Teller in mid- April 1961… This Included Superman, The Little King, Saturday’s Popeye, Advertisement & Before and After.

 

~ Warhol’s Comic Book and Advertising paintings were completed six months before Roy Lichtenstein began using identical imagery.

 

~ Late July / Early August 1961

Lichtenstein paints Look Mickey, Popeye, and Wimpy.

 

" Andy Warhol always believed that Lichtenstein saw his series of paintings at Bonwit Teller... And stole his original ideas.

 

Roy Lichtenstein swiped the entire concept from Andy Warhol. Andy completed a series of Comic and Advertising paintings six months before Lichtenstein. I have often wondered why the Fine Arts establishment never questioned Lichtenstein about this.

 

How does a second-rate abstract expressionist do a complete stylistic turnaround virtually overnight ? Lichtenstein ripped-off Warhol's idea and ran with it... On every level, Roy Lichtenstein was nothing more than a common thief."

 

David Barsalou MFA

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It would seem that Lichtenstein was even less original than many of his existing detractors had thought.

 

The first time that Warhol's large canvases of comic strip characters were exhibited publicly was in April 1961 as part of a window display at the Bonwit Teller department store. Ted Carey discovered afterwards that Roy Lichtenstein was doing similar work.

 

Andy Warhol Predates Roy Lichtenstein By Six Months

 

Ted Carey:

"... I can remember one Saturday afternoon going into Castelli [Gallery], and I was in looking at a show, and Ivan said, 'Oh, I've got something to show you...' so, we went into the closet and he pulled out this big Pop Art painting, and I can't remember what it was, but it was a cartoon-type painting. And I said, 'It looks like Andy Warhol.' and he said, 'No, it's Roy Lichtenstein.' And I said, 'Well it looks very much like some paintings that Andy is doing.' 'Yes, we've heard that Andy is doing some paintings like this,' he said, 'Leo would like to see them. So, tell Andy to give us a call.'"1

 

When Carey told Warhol of Lichtenstein's paintings, Warhol thought Lichtenstein was copying his ideas.

 

Ted Carey:

"... So, I went home and called Andy - no, I think, I went right over to Andy's house... and so, I said, 'Prepare yourself for a shock.' And he said, 'What?' I said, 'Castelli has a closet full of comic paintings.' And he said, 'You're kidding?!' And he said, 'Who did them?' And I said, 'Somebody by the name of Lichtenstein.' Well, Andy turned white. He said, 'Roy Lichtenstein.' He said, 'Roy Lichtenstein used to... ' - as I remember, he used to be a sign painter for Bonwit Teller, and here's where I'm a little bit confused because Andy... couldn't get anybody to show his early cartoon paintings, so he went to Gene Moore and Gene Moore said, 'Well I can put the paintings in the windows...' He put them in the 57th Street window... As I remember, the implication was: Andy felt that Lichtenstein had seen the paintings in the window and gave him the idea to do his paintings. Now, whether this is true or not, I don't know, but at this time, this is what Andy had felt."2

 

Lichtenstein later denied that he had any knowledge of Warhol's comic strip paintings prior to doing his own:

 

Roy Lichtenstein:

"I saw Andy's work at Leo Castelli's about the same time I brought mine in, about the spring of 1961... Of course, I was amazed to see Andy's work because he was doing cartoons of Nancy and Dick Tracy and they were similar to mine."

 

Although Lichtenstein maintains that he saw Warhol's paintings at Castelli's gallery in "about" the Spring of 1961, Castelli did not have any Warhol paintings at that time. The only place they had been exhibited was in April 1961 in the windows of Bonwit Teller. Lichtenstein implies that Castelli was stocking Warhol's work prior to his own, whereas Carey's comments indicate the opposite - and Carey's comments are supported by the recollections of both Leo Castelli and Ivan Karp. Although Lichtenstein had been using comic book imagery in his paintings since 1957, he did not do large canvases reproducing single comic strip panels featuring speech balloons until he painted Look Mickey in the summer of 1961 4 months after he had, by his own admission, seen Warhol's canvases. Warhol had been painting single comic strip panels featuring speech balloons since 1960 - a year earlier than Lichtenstein. It is possible that Lichtenstein, as Warhol suspected, had seen Warhol's paintings at Bonwit Teller, although Lichtenstein never mentioned it in interviews. In any case, Lichtenstein admitted having seen Warhol's cartoon paintings prior to doing his own single panel comic strip paintings featuring speech balloons (Look Mickey) and it is possible he was influenced by Warhol's work.

 

Six months before Lichtenstein painted "Look Mickey", Andy Warhol had already created all of his comic book paintings.

 

~ Art Historian Patrick Smith

 

"I once confronted Roy Lichtenstein on the Bonwit Teller paintings back in the 1980's.

I was teaching at North Texas State and brought my Pop Art Seminar to the opening of Roy's german expressionism paintings at the Fort Worth Art Museum.

 

During the Q & A , I said..."now, you started your comic strip paintings during the summer of '1961 ? "yes", well did you ever see Andy Warhol's paintings at Bonwit Teller during April of 1961 ? "

 

He then stared back at me wide-eyed, and practically shouted "NO!"… I then turned to the kids and said…"That proves it...he did see them".

 

www.flickr.com/photos/deconstructing-roy-lichtenstein/738...

 

David Barsalou MFA

Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein

 

andy warhol window display bonwit teller

andy warhol bonwit teller window display

 

David Barsalou: Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein – Original versus Copy

 

If everyone (including Lichtenstein) believed the Look Mickey source was a Bazooka bubble gum wrapper… How could Diane Waldman have written the following statement ? It's nowhere near the truth, and sounds completely fabricated.

 

"Look Mickey conveys a more explicit sense of the original source than the later cartoons. The image appears intact, transferred and enlarged but little else. It faithfully duplicates the illustrative and narrative framework of the original down to a cursory spatial setting indicated primarily by the receding plank and the position of the waves."

 

"Look Mickey is one of several paintings that Lichtenstein did in the Spring and Summer of 1961."

 

Roy Lichtenstein

Diane Waldman

Harry N. Abrams 1971

8109-0256-7

 

- Lichtenstein's first documented source date is July 16, 1961

 

03/20/1961 - First Day of Spring

 

06/21/1961 - First Day of Summer

 

April, 1961 - Andy Warhol shows at Bonwit Teller NYC

 

There are even more Historical discrepancies in the 1993 Waldman edition. It appears she is determined to prove that Lichtenstein did his Comic Book paintings first. Based on my research into the exact dates. Warhol did it 6 months before Lichtenstein.

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Taken on September 5, 2000