Andy Warhol’s ‘New’ Snake Book

THE DAILY PIC: A new book presents Warhol illustrations from 1963, when he was also making his most serious Pop Art.


THE DAILY PIC (#1652): This is a page from a “new” book by Andy Warhol called The Autobiography of a Snake, being released today by Thames & Hudson.

The volume has been assembled from a series of frames for a promotional cartoon that never got made, commissioned for an awards ceremony in 1963 by Arthur and Teddy Edelman, two longtime commercial clients of Warhol’s. Sadly, the book appeared just in time to act as an homage to Teddy, who passed away last week at the age of 88. I was lucky enough to meet her not too long ago, and she and Arthur both had the same sparkling energy that Warhol gave to the ads he did for their leather-and-snakeskin company, called Fleming Joffe.

The Edelmans were among Warhol’s last clients as an illustrator – he worked for them from 1959, or maybe ’57, all the way through to 1965. Later on, they started to claim to have launched his commercial career at the start of the 1950s (the new book says 1953) a tall tale that misses something important about Warhol. We tend to think of his bubbly commercial illustrations coming first, and then being superseded by his substantial, high-art Pop Art, but in fact the two coexisted for quite a long time. Records prove that the illustrations were still paying for a good chunk of his practice as a fine artist well into the 1960s, and that they were often executed with substantial help from an assistant named Nathan Gluck – who had done his own cartoonish picture of a snake as early as 1951. (As I’ve said before, Warhol’s powers as a sponge were unbeatable.)

So there’s a fascinating relationship between the Factory production of fine art and the factory production of commercial art that went on simultaneously in Warhol’s world – and which (plug, plug) I’ll be covering in detail in my upcoming Warhol biography. (Image © The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of the Carnegie Institute)

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