An Exhibition of Early Illustrations by Andy Warhol at Halcyon Gallery

Currently on display at the Halcyon Gallery is a stunning show, “An Exhibition of Early Illustration by Andy Warhol”. This exhibition offers viewers a rare insight to the raw talent of Andy Warhol from a time before he was known as ‘The King of Pop’.  The exhibition shows a more whimsical side to Warhol with his hand-drawn illustrations, which spurred his career and paved the way to his recognition and huge success.

The walls of the gallery have been decorated in a flushing pink paint, embellished with black designs that sweep across the walls, perfectly showcasing Warhol’s works against a background that is as flamboyant as he was. An entire wall is dedicated to Warhol’s ‘Love is a Pink Cake’ collection, which consists of sketches of well known characters in history and fiction accompanied by a short, whimsical poems. ‘Love is a Pink Cake’ is one of Warhol’s self-published books from the 1950’s. Warhol’s books perfectly showcased his fine artistic skill and his incredible wit. The ‘Love is a Pink Cake’ series revolves around star-crossed lovers as a celebration of Warhol’s relationship with Ralph Thomas Ward and the works also reveal a hint of the sexuality that pervaded Warhol’s work during this time.

In the centre of the gallery, visitors are towered over by two gigantic walls help up with magnificent white pillars. Walking through this dreamy, pink walkway, they are surrounded either side by more works from Warhol’s books. ‘Wild Raspberries’ is the last of the self-published book that Warhol created in the 1950’s. The walls are lined with pages from the satirical cookbook created in collaboration with interior decorator and bohemian hostess, Suzie Frankfurt. Viewers can admire the beautiful illustrations of tongue in cheek recipes, including ‘omelet Greta Garbo … to be eaten alone in a candlelit room’.  Warhol’s ‘A La Recherché du Shoe Perdu’ lines the other side of the walkway, displaying many stunning and elaborate designs of shoes, each with their own unique story. Warhol constructed his collection of shoe drawings while working for a shoe manufacturer, for whom he made weekly advertisements. Watercolour was added to the sketches during parties he would often host, and his mother Julia scribed flowing captions.

In 1952, Julia Warhola found out her son was living in destitute conditions and she moved in with him with the intent of taking care of him and helping him get by. The two shared an immense love of cats and eventually the small apartment was populated by a multitude of felines, all but one named Sam; Julia’s most beloved feline friend was named Hester. Their combined love of cats led to a series of creative outbursts from both mother and son. In 1954, Andy and Julia released a limited edition book ’25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy’’ which featured Andy’s signature watercolour drawings in vibrant colours, and calligraphy from Julia. Julia has actually forgotten the letter “d” from “Named”, but Andy decided to keep the title playing on the quirky nature he was already adopting. Viewers can see individual pages from the book spread along the wall; Twenty-five pairs of tiny eyes watching them as they walk past.

’25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy’ was not the only book the pair created. A sequel followed, titled, ‘Holy Cats by Andy Warhol’s Mother’ which was a playful eulogy for Julia’s beloved Hester. Julia’s support for her son both artistically and domestically meant that he could take on more commissions for work, and his career flourished and grew, and Andy Warhol soon became a well-known household name, whose fame has only accumulated since then.

An Exhibition of Early Illustrations by Andy Warhol is on at the Halcyon Gallery until 10th June 2018. More information may be found here.