Andy Warhol and Color

            Andy Warhol, debatably one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, is responsible for creating some of the world’s most widely recognized pieces of contemporary art. Warhol is well known for his involvement in the emerging Pop art movement of the 1950’s and 60’s, in which artists challenged the traditions of fine art by making familiar images in popular culture the subject of their works. According to Warhol:

“Once you ‘got’ Pop, you could never see a sign the same way again. And once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again. The moment you label something, you take a step – I mean, you can never go back again to seeing it unlabeled.”

He believed that Pop art perfectly represented American culture at the time and reflected the commercialism and vitality of the United States after World War II (“Career”, 2013). During the 1950’s, companies grew rapidly and manufacturing improved so that commodities could be produced faster and cheaper than ever before.

            The United States growing industrial nature inspired Warhol’s mechanical method of creating his prints and using color. In doing this, he challenged Modernism and modern artists of the time. His subject matter made people question the modernist perspective of what could be considered “art.” Andy Warhol’s revolutionary style, including his unique process of mass-producing artwork and his break from traditional use of color, led him to be both praised and criticized for his experimentation in visual art, even in today’s modern society.

            Unlike many artists of the time, Andy Warhol’s method of creating his artwork is mechanical. Warhol once said, “The reason I’m painting this way is that I want to be a machine, and I feel that whatever I do and do machine-like is what I want to do.” By having this industrial style of painting, he was able to mass-produce numerous prints that all looked relatively alike (“Andy Warhol Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works”, 2014). He believed in the idea of mass-producing images that were well known to the public, or in a sense, mass-produced. Warhol’s prints are images of popular items such as the Campbell’s soup cans or of famous celebrities (“Career”, 2013). In fact, he often had other people create his prints for him, which contributed to the mechanical, detached process he followed. Warhol gave little regard to staying within boundaries of lines in his screen prints, which also added to his desire to achieve an assembly line effect. Along with Warhol’s machine-like printing procedure, his unique use of colors in his artwork gives viewers of his paintings a similar feeling of disconnect.

            Color is often used in art to evoke a certain emotion from the audience, and before Andy Warhol and Pop art, artists of the Fauvism movement used non-representational color and representational form to convey different sensations (“Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Prints”, 1999). Warhol, however, does not depict any sort of emotion or sensation through his choice of color. Instead, his paintings and prints follow various color schemes, completely unrelated to any specific emotion. His prints often comprise of: a monochromatic color scheme, meaning having tints and shades of just one color; a complementary color scheme, in which the colors used are opposite on the color wheel; or an analogous color scheme, wherein the color scheme uses 3 to 5 colors adjacent to each other on the color wheel (“Color and Shape”, 2013). His decision to use colors based solely on color scheme and not because of any sensation for the color adds to Warhol’s disconnected method of making multiple prints with different colors. For example, in Warhol’s Space Fruit: Still Lifes (Pears), he uses complementary colors, which are yellow-green and red-purple. Warhol did not seek to convey any sort of emotion by choosing these colors, but rather decided to create this piece using a complementary color scheme.


Another example of the way Warhol used color is in his print titled Skull. This piece contains both a neutral and monochromatic color scheme. While he developed this print using neutral tones, it is also monochromatic because the colors used in the print are tints of one color, which is the color black. Although it appears that the colors used in the print connect to the image itself, because the skull and the dark colors are both associated with death and decay, he made several prints of the same image using much different colors that an audience would not associate with any sort of morbid feeling. This shows how Warhol disassociated color with sensation, and instead chose to use color as a way to mass-produce similar pieces.


 This is apparent as well in his well-known prints of Marilyn Monroe, which he printed shortly after her death in 1962 (Ketner, 2013, p.66). Just as he did in his other pieces of artwork, Warhol simply used various color schemes, and more often than not when it comes to the Marilyn series, multiple color schemes are used in one single print. The colors he chose, however, are meant to accentuate the beauty and glamour associated with Marilyn Monroe’s persona.


             Many artists of today have reached celebrity status in the art world by following Andy Warhol’s methods. Jeff Koons, for example, has mimicked Warhol’s approach by referencing consumer products in his art, along with using bright colors that resemble the Pop style seen in Warhol’s prints. Koons uses a factory-like process, much like what Warhol used. Also like Warhol, he has assistants who do a good majority of his work for him. There are many more artists, besides Jeff Koons, who are greatly influenced by Warhol’s industrial process, his use of color, and his artwork as a whole.

           Andy Warhol was a man who created pieces that blurred the line between commercial and fine art. His industrial method and desire for mass-production took the personality of the artist away from the work, leaving him disconnected from his art. Warhol was successful in doing the same thing with his use of color by disassociating sensation with his colors, and instead developed different color schemes for his artwork. Because of Warhol’s ability to take risks and experiment with context and color, he remains a hugely influential artist long after his death.


Annotated Bibliography

“Andy Warhol Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works.” 2014.  21 November 2014. Web.

This website offers a synopsis of Warhol’s career and life, as well as analyzes his works and describes the key ideas behind his style and process. It briefly explores the legacy Warhol left behind as well.

“Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Prints.” Color Vision and Art. 1999.  21 November 2014. Web.

This website helps explain the contrast between Warhol’s use of color and the way artists of the Fauvism movement used color. I also received a quote by Andy Warhol while on this website.

“Career.” The Warhol. 2013.  21 November 2014. Web.

The museum’s webpage about Warhol’s career explains his career as not only an artist, but as a social commentator, celebrity, and entrepreneur. With each section about his different titles, a quote regarding his opinion on each title is provided.

“Color and Shape.” The Warhol. 2013. 21 November 2014. Web.

The powerpoint one the museum’s website gave useful definitions involving color theory and offered visual examples of Warhol’s works that fit those definitions.

Ketner, Joseph D. “Marilyn.”  Andy Warhol (p. 144). New York, NY: Phaidon Press Limited. 2013. Print.

Ketner’s chapter, titled “Marilyn”, describes Andy Warhol’s obsession with celebrities, beauty, and death. He also talks about Warhol’s experimentation with printing and color to mass-produce the celebrity’s image.


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