Artwork in the spotlight: Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans

In 1962, Andy Warhol created Campbell’s Soup Cans, a piece exhibited at the Ferus Gallery in New York. 32 posters each depicting a soup can were exhibited as genuine works of art. It was quite a feat, as Pop Art had not yet recognized as an art form in America… And Rise Art is here to explain what makes it so original...

By Cécile Martet | 22 Aug 2023

Pop Art: A Product of Consumption

The artwork you know today was not the same fifty-five years ago. During its first public exhibition on July 9, 1962, the thirty-two posters were arranged in a horizontal line, one after another. This arrangement echoes the arrangement of cans on a shelf.

Despite everything, Pop Art is on the rise! Warhol brings consumer objects into a gallery. He exhibits them as they are and doesn't hide their commercial value. In the same vein, Richard Hamilton, a British artist, defines this new art movement. According to him, Pop Art is indeed "popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, and big business."


"I Want to Be a Machine"

Andy Warhol creates his works in the factory, or more precisely, in his studio he calls "The Factory." And he himself is a machine. For Campbell's Soup Cans, he employs a production technique borrowed from advertising: silkscreen printing. Here, he reproduces an industrial motif and repeats it in successive patterns.

Warhol is a perfectionist and leaves nothing to chance! Every detail matters, especially for Campbell's Soup Cans! Look at it from a distance and you'll see thirty-two identical soup cans. Yet, he changed the flavour of each one: ‘beef’, ‘black bean’, ‘chicken noodle’, ‘onion’... Suddenly, Campbell's Soup is no longer just tomato soup; Warhol adds flavour to it!

A Closer Look at Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans
Photo of Andy Warhol / Jack Mitchell, CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Do You Know the Rainbow Soup?

Five years after painting the industrial Campbell's Soup cans, Warhol personalised the cans by adding colours. Red, blue, green, yellow, purple burst onto harmonious backgrounds! He created nineteen vivid posters and revolutionised art processes. Here, the star of Pop Art initiates what would become his trademark: polychrome series!


Campbell's Soup, a Real Brand

Warhol claims to be a great consumer of Campbell's Soup: one can per lunch for twenty years to be exact. He's not afraid of repetition and even hums "the same thing over and over." So, a publicity stunt for the brand? Consumption is at the heart of American society, but introducing it into museums is still unthinkable!

However, the pop artist does intend to bring reality, mass consumption, into art. To reflect the world around him, he uses advertising images, celebrity photos, and comics. Pop Art acknowledges reality, and Campbell's Soup brand does too: “Made for real, real life!”

A Closer Look at Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans
Photo: Jonn Leffmann [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


A Childhood Memory

When interviewed for The Face magazine, Andy Warhol explained that his mother used to arrange flower bouquets in iron cans. Perhaps he's paying homage? Perhaps he's echoing his childhood? Andrew Warhol is the youngest child of a family that immigrated from Slovakia. A creative young boy, he was supported by his parents despite their limited financial means.


The Beauty of a Can

'Campbell's Soup Cans' was hand-painted. Warhol used silkscreen printing but also employed paint. Here, he subverts the rules of art to better utilise them, but he also looks at things to see them better. "Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it," he said.

A Closer Look at Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans
"Campbell's Soup," Andy Warhol, 1962, MoMA (97cm x 163 cm / Flicker, Sharon Mollerus, CC BY 2.0

With him, poetry is also found in looking. A can can transform into a flower vase. A brand logo can be delicately painted with a brush. And industrial soup becomes an artistic totem, that of Pop Art!

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