Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1964-65 Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1964-65
Featured in Monte Carlo Auction House's Modern art, design, photography and sculpture sale on 2nd April, 2017.

The idea first came to Warhol whilst he was flicking through a copy of Modern Photography magazine. He spotted a photograph of hibiscus flowers, which had been taken by Patricia Caulfield. Warhol began creating a composition using the image by cropping the photograph into a square and manipulating the flower so that four copies of them could be placed within the square format.

Soon after he began to work on the Flowers series, Warhol decided that this would be the focus of his first show at Leo Castelli's gallery in the autumn of 1964. Warhol's works caught the eye of the original photographer, Caulfield, landing Warhol in hot water as she brought a case against him for copyright issues.

Warhol offered Caulfield prints from the series in an attempt to settle the case, but she refused his offer, until they eventually settled the case out of court.

So many layers of irony surround the Flowers series. Firstly, it may have seemed to critics Warhol had taken a sharp departure from his usual celebrity and brand subject, but the reality was Warhol spotted the image of the flower in a magazine, and never actually laid eyes on his natural subject in real life.

He then went on to manipulate it and put the organic image through the same print screen process as he had done with his images of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell's soup tins - meaning the flower was no less subject to Warhol's attempts at immortal iconography.

However, unlike images of superstars and commercial logos, flowers have a ephemeral quality, their beauty eventually fading. Through creating the Flowers series, Warhol attempted to immortalise even the most impossible subject matter - nature.

The silkscreen method was originally intended for commercial use, by placing the image of the flower through this process, Warhol strips the flower of its individual qualities.

Finally, much irony lies in the fact that Warhol - an artist who made his living from producing mass images of brands and logos - would come under fire for copyright issues surrounding a flower - a subject that surely no one 'owns.' It is believed that, following the case Caulfield brought against him, Warhol would go on to only use his own photography.

Andy Warhol with his Flowers series Andy Warhol with his Flowers series

In 1970, Warhol produced his Flowers portfolio, which comprised of 10 prints, all with varying compositions. The works from the 1964 series were the first of Warhol's works that had no fixed upright and could be installed in a variety of ways.

Today, the Flowers series may seem another part of Warhol's oeuvre, but at the time it was a bold turn in the artist's explorations. He series prior to Flowers was the 13 Most Wanted Men, made up of mug shots from the 1962 NYPD booklet. The series was commissioned for the New York Art Fair, but was censored before it went on display.

Twenty years after Flowers first went into print, Warhol returned to the subject with his Daisy series.

Monte Carlo Auction House's Modern art, design, photography and sculpture sale will take place on 2nd April. Check out the full catalogue here.