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Andy Warhol, Before and After, 4, 1962

From America Is Hard to See

May 1, 2015


Andy Warhol, Before and After, 4, 1962


Donna De Salvo: I’m Donna De Salvo, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs at the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

This is a work by Andy Warhol called Before and After, 4. It was made in 1962. It’s one of a series of works that Warhol made, which are based on an image for nose surgery that appeared in The National Enquirer.

Warhol, we know, actually had surgery on his nose in the late 1950s, and was also very self-conscious about his own appearance. On another level, this work really speaks to the fundamental notion of American assimilation. Warhol understood the power of consumption, and how we fit in by consuming. And to the extent that one can even think about buying a new nose.

Narrator: The way Warhol painted this work dovetails with its subject.  

Donna De Salvo: He wanted to achieve what he said was an art that could be “noncommittal and anonymous.” And if one looks at this work, the evidence of the hand is extremely limited. Of course we know Warhol, by ’62, became someone who used photography, and used silkscreen to make his paintings, and moved away from this kind of hand-painted image.

So the combination of the kind of anonymity one might see, or the fitting in that this kind of nose change could imply is certainly in keeping with the actual removal of the hand that Warhol pursued in the making of these pictures.