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Sunday, 23 August 2015

The religious art of the Pope of Pop

"Andy was a Catholic
The ethic ran through his bones
He lived alone with his mother
Collecting gossip and toys

Every Sunday when he went to Church
He'd kneel in his pew and he'd say
It's work, all that matters is work"

('Work' from 'Songs for Drella' by Lou Reed & John Cale)

"To believe the envious Truman Capote, Andy was a Sphinx without a secret. In fact, he did have a secret, one that the kept dark from all but his closest friends: he was exceedingly devout - so much so that he made daily visits to the church of Saint Vincent Ferrer on the Upper East Side of Manhattan... Although famously thrifty, he was also secretly charitable. Besides giving financial support, he often spent evenings working in a shelter for the homeless run by the Church of the Heavenly Rest. It was not soppy social consciousness or guilt that prompted Andy's good works; it was atavism as personified by his adored and adoring mother, the pious Julia." John Richardson [from "Warhol at Home" in Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters (London: Pimlico, 2001), p. 247-8]

"What was Warhol's religious affiliation?

His family was from the Ukraine, and his mother spoke Czech only. She was extremely pious. It was a form of Catholicism, sort of between Catholicism and the Byzantine Rite church. Warhol concealed it from people, but he never left home without saying prayers with his mother.

Often, he went to the church that was near his home. I interviewed the prior there, and he told me how Warhol would come in every evening and sit in the back pew, in the shadows. He didn't want to be recognized as Andy Warhol. He just prayed and sat there. Sometimes he would come to Sunday services, too.

How did his religious practice influence his art, do you think?

Mostly it seems to have influenced his work in the last two years of life. That's when he painted many, many different versions of "The Last Supper," some of which were ravishingly beautiful. The way he manipulates the medium, the application of the paint on the silk screen so that it isn't flat but has contours to it. It's really lovely."

(Berkeley art historian Jane Dillenberger on creativity, prayer and the spirituality of Andy Warhol)

"Two images of Andy Warhol exist in the popular press: the Pope of Pop of the Sixties, and the partying, fright-wigged Andy of the Seventies. In the two years before he died, however, Warhol made over 100 paintings, drawings, and prints based on Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. The dramatic story of these works is told in this book [The Religious Art of Andy Warhol] for the first time. Revealed here is the part of Andy Warhol that he kept very secret: his lifelong church attendance and his personal piety. Art historian and curator Jane Daggett Dillenberger explores the sources and manifestations of Warhol's spiritual side, the manifestations of which are to be found in the celebrated paintings of the last decade of Warhol's life: his Skull paintings, the prints based on Renaissance religious artwork, the Cross paintings, and the large series based on The Last Supper."

To what extent will these perspectives feature or inform BBC Four Goes Pop: A week-long celebration of Pop Art across BBC Four, Radio and Online?


Lou Reed - Dime Store Mystery.

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