Date of Graduation
College of Creative Arts
Jane B. Donovan
For Andy Warhol (1928-1987), images meant for commercial advertisement, tabloid publication, and entertainment were not merely meaningless reflections of a commodity and media-obsessed world -- they were sacred. In 1986, the Pop artist based the last major series of his career on a reproduction of a Renaissance masterpiece, Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper (1495-97/98, figure 1). Given the slick packaging of Warhol's oeuvre and his cool public persona, it would be easy to dismiss these late paintings as a cynical comment on the proliferation of images in American society. Viewing The Last Supper series from the perspectives of biography, psychology, and cultural identity, however, has led to a startling conclusion that refutes decades of postmodern analysis categorizing Warhol as a shallow artist limiting himself to the simulacral surface. The son of Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants and a devout Byzantine Catholic, Warhol's relationship with the visual image was formed by a rich cultural heritage in which icons, or holy pictures, are experienced as sacred doorways that make the unseen world real. Although he convincingly played the role of a scheming hipster defiantly blurring the line between commercial and fine art, Warhol's style and technique expose his lifelong connection to the religious imagery with which he grew up.
Rosefsky, Linda, "The Sacred in the Profane: Understanding Andy Warhol's Relationship with the Visual Image" (2011). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 749.