München/Munich (kath.net/KAP) Andy Warhol was "despite his deep, albeit ever hidden persistent piety" too peculiar, while his work was stamped by his "rootedness in the Byzantine-Catholic Church". That's how the German Jesuit periodical "Stimmen der Zeit" took note of the 25th anniversary of the death of the famous Pop-Art-Artist. Warhol's portraits of famous stars take on the Iconography of the Eastern Church, its style of repetition recalls Orthodox Liturgy, it says in an article "Modern Icons" by art historian Ruth Langenberg.
Andy Warhol was born on August 6, 1928 in the Ruthenian quarter of Pittsburgh (USA) as Andrew Warhola, who was raised in a strict immigrant family. The Warholas came from the north east of modern Slovakia, recalls Langebach. The participation in religious life had been understandably important in Andy Warhol's youth in the community of St. John Chrysostom -- which belongs to the Latin Church and is at the same time bound to the Byzantine-Slavic Rite. This influence was not broken by his move to New York and he lived in a home "full of religious objects."
The Pop Art, to which Warhol was inclined and to which he was one of the most famous participants, is considered to be "profane art in any case", says Langenberg. In the early 1960s a few young artists in Great Britain and the USA made the banal everyday, the consumerist world, the formal language of consumerism and comics the elements and formal objects of their art.
If Andy Warhol, for example, originated the face of Marilyn Monroe, by way of a series shortly after her death -- represented in diverse repetitions, he made said "Stimmen der Zeit" on the one conscious of the side of mass media "abrasiveness" through repetition, and on the other side also the quasi "reverential" object. "The principle of repetition, which is the characteristic of Warhol's Pop Art, is in many respects natural for Icon painting", explained Langenberg in his article. "An Icon repeats always a basic image with the least possible variation."
More and More Religious Themes
From the 1970s Warhol set apart with diverse variations with the death's head as the traditional "memento mori" - motif of Christian painting, says Langenberg. His last five years of life were occupied explicitly with Christian themes -- above all the cross, but also with "Icons of art history" like Raffaels Sixtine Madonna or Leonardo da Vincis Last Supper.
The large sized work "The Last Supper (Christ 112 Times)" of 1986 gives a view of the Leonardo Fresco with the accentuated head of Christ 28-times in four rows. Langenberg evaluated Warhol's work consequently as a "desacralization" of the famous painting, yet at the same time it consisted in the extreme oblique format and the coloration "as a thoroughly valuable, near to sacral radiation, which wasn't preoccupied with the Pop-attitude of other works." And the principle of repetition an explicit summoning of Jesus, to review the last supper, a "sacral connotation".
Andy Warhol died on the 22nd February 1987 following a gall bladder operation and was buried in the city of his birth, Pittsburgh at the Byzantine-Catholic cemetery. At his funeral Mass, Priest John Richardson warned then against taking the artist's apparent superficiality too literally: The knowledge of his secret piety altered the perception of the artist, "who led the world by the nose, till it understood that its only obsessions were gold, fame and glamour (...) the unobtrusive observer was fundamentally a chronicling angel."
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