On July 9, 1962, a little-known artist named Andy Warhol opened a little show at the Ferus gallery in Los Angeles. His head-scratching subject: Campbell’s Soup. Each of his 32 paintings portrayed a various flavor in the lineup, native Tomato come Pepper Pot and Cream of Celery.

For Warhol, not rather 34 years old, it was his very first solo paint exhibit. Through then, he’d spent virtually a te as a optimal commercial artist, working v high-end proclaiming clients like Tiffany & Co. And Dior. Yet he was established to end up being a “real” artist, well-known by museums and critics alike. His an enig weapon? The emerging “Pop" arts style.

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Artist Andy Warhol with among his later on Campbell's-themed  projects

Mario De Biasi/Mondadori/Getty Images

Pop turned classic art upside down. Instead of portraits, landscapes, fight scenes or other subjects that experts thought of as “art,” artists favor Warhol took photos from advertising, comic books and other bits of well-known culture—the “pop” in pop art. They used humor and irony to talk about how massive production and consumerism had involved dominate so lot of American life and culture. Abstract artists the the 1950s choose Jackson Pollock may have glorified themselves as creative, individualist geniuses, but Pop artist of the 1960s take it the the contrary approach. They tried to smooth end or remove all traces the their very own art-making processes—like brush strokes—so the their work seemed nearly mechanical, favor the mass-produced subject issue it portrayed.

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Almost. To do the “Campbell’s Soup Can” paintings, Warhol projected the photo of a soup can onto his empty canvas, traced the outline and also details, then very closely filled that in using old-fashioned brushes and also paint. For consistency, he offered a hand stamp to do the fleur-de-lys pattern roughly each label’s bottom edge, however he didn’t constantly get it right. Small details—tiny splashes that red ~ above the Tomato Soup painting, the unevenly applied fleur-de-lys rubber stamp on others—betrayed the paintings’ handmade origins. In utilizing fine art techniques to depict an daily manufactured object, Warhol captured an essential contradiction in pop art. Although they were an alleged to look prefer they’d to be made mechanically, every paint was slightly different—and not just in the smell on the label.

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But there’s one point all 32 paintings have in common. Instead of detailing the elaborate medallion at the center of every can's label—representing the “gold medal that excellence” that Campbell’s Soup winner at the 1900 Paris Exposition—Warhol substituted a level gold circle. “Is it simply because other paints don’t stick well on optimal of gold? because getting the medals simply right would certainly take too much work and also might never ever look good, anyway?” pondered Warhol biographer Blake Gopnik. “Did he similar to the gold circle’s graphics punch?” 

Graphic punch—and an wait of nostalgia—may be two factors Warhol determined Campbell’s product line as his popular music icon. The standard label style had changed small since the turn-of-the-20th-century debut, consisting of the homey, cursive "Campbell's" script, which follow to a company archivist, was very similar to founder Joseph Campbell's own signature. And Warhol himself had actually grown up with Campbell's soup. “I used to drink it,” that said. “I used to have the same lunch every day because that 20 years.”