Sunday B. Morning

The recreations of Andy Warhol’s work that started officially & amicably, but are now unauthorized copies of copies.

Andy Warhol worked in a variety of mediums throughout his career, but his most famous works are his silkscreen prints. His prints of Marilyn Monroe, Campbell’s Soup cans, Mao Zedong, Elvis and others changed pop culture and today sell for millions of dollars. While he produced some of these works himself he eventually created The Factory, his aptly titled Manhattan studio where an assortment of interesting characters would produce his prints for him. Like a Pop art orchestra Warhol served as the conductor, directing his assistants as they played their parts in making his art.

The 1967 collection of prints made by the Factory are referred to as the “Factory Additions” and are authentic Warhols. Authenticity begins to get murkier in 1970 when Warhol started a collaboration with two anonymous Belgian artists. Andy Warhol’s use of repetition in his art was part of a larger criticism & statement about consumerism, pop culture celebrity, and disposable mass produced goods. He took this to a new level when he gave the negatives & the color codes for several of his most famous prints to these new Belgian partners so they could start printing his work. These prints would be new editions of the work his Factory had already done for him. These secondary prints became known as the Sunday B. Morning prints.

Flowers, Mao, and Marilyn are all Warhol works that Sunday B. Morning creates prints of.

A copy of a copy?

What started as an amicable collaboration ended with Warhol regretting the decision and the 1970 prints were labeled “unauthorized”. The Sunday B. Morning duo produced 250 prints of several Warhol works which, while not exactly by Warhol, were produced from his own negatives to his specifications so they became valuable pieces in the art market. Warhol’s lack of direct involvement broadly categorizes this work into what is referred to as “After Warhol.” Despite his disapproval, when Warhol would encounter one of these prints he would sometimes sign the back with “This is not by me. Andy Warhol” which only added to the value.

To add to the confusion a third series of prints were created by Sunday B. Morning in 1985. Then, after Warhol died in 1987, a company (rather than the original duo) calling themselves Sunday B. Morning have been continuously producing prints. After the original 1970 series the silkscreens used to make the prints were locked away and the current Sunday B. Morning prints are copies of the 1970 prints … which were, in a way, copies of the original Factory Addition prints.

Black or Blue: Which one am I looking at?

Discerning an original Warhol Factory Addition print, from a 1970 Sunday B. Morning, from a later day Sunday B. Morning, from a forgery can be difficult. An original Warhol is almost guaranteed to be in a museum or the home of a wealthy collector so it’s unlikely you’ll find one on eBay. His original prints were frequently signed by him in various ways on the back (interestingly, his earlier 1950s work was also signed with his name, but was sometimes written by his mom Julia Warhola).

The second series of this work, the 1970 Sunday B. Morning series, have a black ink stamp on the back that says “published by Sunday B. Morning”. These prints have a second black ink stamp that says “fill in your own signature”, which is where Warhol would sometimes semi-ironically sign that the print was not by him.

The third series from 1985 have a rubber stamp signature of Andy Warhol’s name on the back, which became known as the European Artist’s Proof Editions. Finally the modern day prints are stamped on the back with “fill in your own signature” and “published by Sunday B. Morning” but in blue ink, and are referred to as the Blue Ink series.

Two samples of the stamps found on the back of the Sunday B. Morning Blue Ink later day series of prints.

Assigning monetary value to any of these depends on a lot of factors, but basically the Warhol Factory Addition prints are the most valuable (into the millions of dollars) and the later day Sunday B. Morning Blue Ink prints are the least valuable (worth a few hundred dollars). Of the Sunday B. Morning prints, the 1970 series is the most respected and the most highly valued.

The Ambassadors & Anamorphosis

The illusion hidden in the middle of an art masterpiece

In 1526 German painter Hans Holbein the Younger went to England in search of work. Eventually he found a client in Anne Boleyn (wife number 2 of Henry the VIII, and mother of Elizabeth I). By 1535 he was the King’s painter, creating portraits and documenting courtly life. It was through this life at court that he came to paint one of his most famous works, the double portrait of French ambassador Jean de Dinteville and French bishop Georges de Selve titled The Ambassadors.

The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein

Painted in 1533, The Ambassadors is a meticulously detailed masterpiece of Renaissance art. At the time it was painted, Henry VIII was separating the English Church from the Catholic Church of Rome, and these two ambassadors were most likely trying to resolve this political & religious turmoil. Filled with symbolism and hidden messages, the painting is more than just a double portrait. Between the two men is a table crowded with objects. On the top shelf are instruments to study the skies and on the lower shelf are items associated with the Earth and human activity. The lute with a broken string, the book of mathematics opened to division, and the hymn book are all references to the political & religious discord taking place at the time.

It’s what’s below the bottom shelf that makes this painting especially famous. With the top shelf representing the heavens, the bottom shelf representing life, then what is this thing below that? When viewed head-on it is a long diagonally shaped blob that looks out of place in this very life-like painting. However, when viewed by standing at the edge of the painting’s frame (or tilting your device), through a distortion of space, it is revealed to be a skull. The skull as a reminder of death completes the three levels of the center of the painting with the heavens, life, and finally death. It is also interesting that death exists amongst life but can’t be seen properly. It can only be viewed when you can no longer view the rest of the painting (when you can no longer view life).

Through anamorphosis the warped image in the center of the painting is revealed to be a skull when viewed from the right perspective.

Anamorphosis

The skull at the center of The Ambassadors is one of the most famous examples of anamorphosis. In anamorphosis an image can only be properly seen from a certain point of view, or with the aid of a special device (such as a mirrored cylinder), or sometimes both. It’s an illusion where you start not understanding and then move into understanding. Unlike normal optical illusions or trope l’oeil which can be understood (albeit mind bendingly) at face value, anamorphosis can only be understood when viewed the right way.

It’s a neat optical trick that has been used in various ways for millennia. The technique goes back at least as far as the ancient Greeks, but it really came into being in the Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci included an early example in the illusion known known as Leonardo’s Eye. It was also used at times with tromp l’oeil to create more elaborate church ceilings. This was the case when Andrea Pozzo painted a “dome” on the ceiling of Saint Ignatius’s in Rome because the church builders were not allowed to construct an actual dome. So if you stand in the right spot the illusion of looking up into a dome is excellent, but from any other angle the illusion breaks down.

Saint Ignatius’s in Rome has a fake dome done through anamorphosis and trope l’oeil.
Anamorphic street art for Twin Peaks
Leon Keer’s anamorphic street art of Pac-Man

Today we find anamorphosis in fun street art. Sidewalks become filled with precarious holes or cliff faces that confuse our sense of space. Artist Jonty Hurwitz creates anamorphic sculptures including a three dimensional version of the skull from Holbein’s The Ambassadors. In practical usage we experience anamorphosis most frequently while driving. Words written in the road are elongated but look correct from the vantage point of a seated driver. Similarly emergency vehicles such as ambulances frequently have words written backwards, but when seen from a driver’s mirror they read correctly.

Jonty Hurwitz’s anamorphic 3-D skull version of The Ambassadors
Jonty Hurwitz’s anamorphic 3-D frog that is revealed using a mirrored cylinder

Added bonus: There is a great video by The National Gallery in London where Deputy Director and Director of Public Engagement Susan Foister discusses The Ambassadors and some of its hidden messages.

The Art Collection of Dorothy & Herbert Vogel

How an ordinary couple amassed one of the greatest art collections in history

Dorothy and Herbert Vogel began collecting art in the 1960s. Herb was a mail sorter at the post office and Dorothy was a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. With a passion for art they decided to live on Dorothy’s salary and use Herb’s salary (never more than $23,000 a year) to collect art. They lived frugally in a rent-controlled two room apartment in Manhattan, all the while amassing a collection of art that amounted to thousands of pieces.

Their collection is primarily modern, minimalist and conceptual art. They acquired many pieces from then lesser-known artists such as when they acquired pieces from Christo & Jeanne-Claude in exchange for taking care of the artists’ cat Gladys while they were away installing Valley Curtain in the early 1970s. The Vogels befriended many of the artists they bought from and gradually became known collectors in the art world. Chuck Close called “the mascots of the art world.” Their collection became a who’s who of modern art.

Herb and Dorothy Vogel
Some of their collection in their apartment, later in a gallery
the Vogels with Christo & Jeanne-Claude

Ultimately the Vogels collection amounted to 4,782 pieces, all crammed inside their NYC apartment with the couple, their cats, and their turtles. Dorothy insisted that they did not store work in their oven, but otherwise every other space seemed to contain art. After decades in the making they decided it was time to unload their collection and invite the public to experience it so in 1992 they donated the entire collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.. They chose the National Gallery because the museum is free to the public and never sells pieces in its collection. Similarly, the Vogels never sold any of the art in their collection, a collection conservatively estimated to be valued in the millions. In 2008 they worked with the National Gallery and ran a program where they donated 50 pieces to a museum in each of the 50 states. The 2008 documentary Herb & Dorothy documents their world famous collection, the collection of two working class art fans who loved art for art’s sake.

Marlene Dietrich & Queen

One of the most iconic photos of Queen was inspired by a photograph of Marlene Dietrich

For their second album, Queen II, Queen wanted to explore the theme of duality. This was visually explored through black and white imagery and even labeling the two sides of the album Side White and Side Black. They went to photographer Mick Rock (who had worked with David Bowie, Lou Reed, and others in the mid ‘70s glam rock scene) to photograph the album cover.

Rock had recently been shown a 1932 photograph of Marlene Dietrich from the film Shanghai Express. Dietrich was lit with a technique known as “butterfly lighting” where one of the lights is positioned in-front and above the subject, casting shadows down from the subject’s brow, cheeks, and nose (the shadow below the nose produces a butterfly looking shadow, hence the name). This was a technique frequently used with Dietrich to accentuate her facial features, especially in her collaborations with director Josef von Sternberg.

When Rock showed this photograph to the band, Freddy Mercury loved the idea that they could recreate it for the album cover.

“I don’t know if it was the shot itself or the idea that [Freddie] could be like Marlene Dietrich—probably a combination of the two,”

Mick Rock

This Dietrich inspired pose was used again in the music video for Queen’s greatest masterpiece Bohemian Rhapsody. The video for Bohemian Rhapsody, at over 1 billion views on YouTube, extends Marlene Dietrich’s influence even further, despite some viewers not even knowing it.

Moses’s Horns

Moses spent a period of time in art with horns because of a mistranslation.

During the Middle Ages, and into the Renaissance, Moses was frequently depicted in art as having horns on his head, including in a statue in Rome by Michelangelo. This was all because of a mistranslation from the Hebrew text.

The mistranslation said that Moses came down from Mount Sinai and his face was “horned from the conversation of the Lord” but should have been translated as his face was “shining/radiant from conversation of the Lord”.

So the paintings & sculptures of Moses with mutant horns should have just been Moses with a rosy glow.