A stack of previously unseen Andy Warhol drawings from the 1950s are about to be published for the first time.
The drawings explore themes of love, sex, and desire, all focusing on male subjects. At the time of their production, the artworks were met with homophobic criticism and never displayed.
Erotic male drawings by Andy Warhol which faced rejection in the ’50s will be published for the first time, giving new insight into the man behind the artist.
Now, being released by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the pictures will be made public for the first time. The drawings all depict young men in private moments, ranging from a loving embrace to more explicit scenes.
Back in the ’50s, Warhol had found success as a commercial illustrator but was struggling to make it as a fine artist. He tried to exhibit his drawings in New York but was met with rejection from gallery owners due to homophobic attitudes. Later, he would go on to perfect his brand of pop art, receiving global recognition for his paintings and prints of movie stars and soup cans.
The images will appear in a forthcoming book from Michael Dayton Hermann of the Andy Warhol Foundation, Andy Warhol: Early Drawings of Love, Sex and Desire. Hermann has said upon first seeing them, he was “mesmerised” by the drawings.
To him, they were a precursor to Warhol’s obsessive approach to capturing people and moments through his photography, yet unlike photographs, the drawings were able to show a different level of depth.
“When you have a drawing of someone, the artist’s hand is there,” he described. “There isn’t a barrier between the artist and the subject … It’s a much more personal and intimate way to capture someone and it tells you a lot about the artist as much as the subject.”
Whilst making the book, Hermann collected anecdotes from people surrounding Warhol at the time. One story came from 1959, when Warhol approached former roommate, Philip Pearlstein, for help exhibiting the drawings. Pearlstein tried to get The Tanager Gallery to display the drawings, but found they refused to show drawings of young men “with their tongues in each other’s mouth”.
To Hermann, the drawings show how Warhol was an artist “who put sexuality at the centre of his work from day one…challenging the world to see things differently and he wasn’t successful at it in the 1950s because people weren’t ready for it.”
“That these works were created by a practising Catholic in the United States at a time when sodomy was a harshly punished felony in every state illustrates that, even at a young age, Warhol embraced the role of the nonconformist.”
“These drawings point to the universality of emotions … [In the past], these have been diminished as being homoerotic art as opposed to depictions of love, sex and desire.”
This March, 20 of the drawings will also feature in a Warhol retrospective at the Tate Modern in London.
Check out some of them below.