It would be tempting to wiggle into this one, introduce the issue with some high minded talk about the past not being another country and so forth, go on to mention our wonderful articles about Julia Margaret Cameron, etc., but more about all of that in a minute…The fact is we have something here requiring immediate comment—Paul Kossey’s discovery of a set of drawings done in 1945 quite probably by Schenley High School in Pittsburgh’s most famous graduate, Andy Warhol. Let’s begin with Mr. Kossey, whose sleuthing has appeared in these pages before (“George Caleb Bingham’s Rocky Mountains, a landscape discovery,” November/December 2014). He could have gone elsewhere with his big find but he trusts us to see something like this through in a careful manner. And I think we have.
This is hot. Or it’s not. Some people will take a shot at it. The experts consulted have been encouraging, but no one will risk authenticating any work by Warhol now for all the well-publicized legal reasons. My view? The stars are aligned, the facts persuasive, and when it comes to the drawings themselves their sunniness (in Pittsburgh!), appropriations of the work of others, and matter-of-fact modesty are a small part of what tells me that the kid did them all those years ago before New York had its way with him—and he with it. There is much else to say, some of which you will find in Kossey’s article, but for a longer, deeper view of Andy Warhol, one that ratifies my faith in the probable authenticity of these little works, consult the late great Arthur C. Danto, who wrote best about Warhol over several decades, culminating in a crisp monograph published by Yale University Press in 2009.
And so to our painting issue with its fine tribute to Julia Margaret Cameron at two hundred by Phillip Prodger, who notes how she used her camera in a new and penetrating way to move her portraits beyond the somewhat insulting designation of them as Pre-Raphaelite. And to Frank Rose’s fine account of the great new Whitney Museum of American Art. We have a luxury here at ANTIQUES: we do not have to be first to weigh in on an art world event; we can take our time to be best. There is much more, but you should not miss “New worlds, new art,” about what may be the most important exhibition of the season.
When he died in 1987 Andy Warhol’s studio was photographed as he left it: the far wall shows two of his huge multiples based on The Last Supper; just below them is a Campbell’s Soup painting. Andy knew that the past was not another country. He staked a lot on that.