How Andy Warhol Created the Famous Campbell’s Soup Cans

How did a can of soup make its way into art history? One of Warhol’s most famous bodies of work was a groundbreaking series of paintings he titled Campbell’s Soup Cans. Caught off guard, the crowd was not pleased. But today, it is a quintessential work of Pop Art.

What Inspired Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans

Andy Warhol switched from painting by hand to a photo transfer in 1962, the same year Pop Art was heralded as the most recent development in the world of art. These works were, in fact, hand-painted but looked as though they were produced mechanically. So, what’s the secret?

One of his most famous and well-remembered bodies of work was a groundbreaking series of paintings he titled Campbell’s Soup Cans. The paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans elicited various reactions from the audience. On the one hand, he received praise, while on the other, he was subjected to ridicule. 

The story of Andy Warhol and his Campbell’s Soup Cans is fascinating because it is really a story about challenging perception. The iconic artist created a series of game-changing iconic paintings that changed the art world. 

This cemented Warhol’s position as one of the most famous and influential artists of the 20th century. The Campbell’s Soup Cans that Warhol painted are some of the most well-known examples of Pop Art. The history of the original artwork tells the narrative of one of the most famous works created during the Pop Art Movement.

What Inspired Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans?

Campbell's Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, 1962.
Campbell’s Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, 1962. Displayed in Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Warhol’s comic-strip paintings were already famous. But then a friend of Warhol’s recommended he paint something ubiquitous, like cans of Campbell’s Soup, to give the artist a subject to work with when he was at a loss for a meaningful subject matter. 

The cans’ projections were traced onto canvases and then hand-painted, giving the impression that a machine had produced the piece. Subtle differences and flaws among the 32 varieties show that this was a work of great art that focused on something mundane, ordinary, or seemingly uninteresting. The end result is Pop Art stripped down to its very essence.

Who Made The Campbell’s Soup Painting Famous?

Art dealer Irving Blum first put the paintings on display at his Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles because he thought they were an intriguing departure from Warhol’s earlier works that made him famous in the first place. 

Inside the gallery, the cans were placed on a fitting display: that of grocery store shelves. 

But Warhol did not exactly earn accolades all around. A dealer at a nearby gallery ridiculed Warhol’s work by selling real cans of Campbell’s Soup and advertising them as a bargain compared to the artist’s own works. And despite Blum’s best efforts, that first exhibition was not exactly successful in the strict sense of the word, and viewers were not impressed. 

But that very first exhibition of Campbell’s Soup Cans did manage to have a more far-reaching effect where it mattered most: on the art community. If anything, it was a clever publicity stunt that managed to grab the attention of the art world.

After that, Warhol’s career took an upswing. He began working with silkscreen printings and kept producing works representing soup cans and other commonplace items. 

At the exhibition titled The American Supermarket in 1964, one of his soup cans sold for $1500. If you were there, you could also get authentic Campbell’s Soup cans that Warhol had signed for the low price of $6.50 each.

How Did Warhol Make the Campbell’s Soup Cans Series?

warhol soup can campbell

Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans were made to mimic a mechanical method of production, imitating the process of printing photographs. But in fact, they were hand-painted.

Today, Warhol’s series is recognized as a significant milestone in the development of Pop Art not because of the positive reception it received at the time, which was not entirely positive, but because of how it influenced further developments in the art community worldwide.

Warhol himself once stated that his artwork’s subject matter should be something everyone can easily recognize.

Warhol would subsequently reinterpret the signature pieces of his career in the form of screenprints to achieve the highly polished, machine-made look he desired. He wanted to get this aspect right because his artwork reflected his desire to be a machine and automatize his creative processes. Later, Campbell’s Soup I became the most renowned series in his graphic oeuvre.

What Inspired Andy Warhol’s Work?

The Campbell’s Soup Cans artist often found inspiration in popular culture and commercial commodities. He was also fascinated by people’s unhealthy obsession with celebrities. This enabled him to create some of the most memorable works of the Pop Art movement.

Even during the height of the Pop Art movement, Warhol’s interpretation of Campbell’s Soup Cans was somewhat controversial. The works were a milestone that marked the artist’s departure from the traditional aesthetic and artistic conventions. The artworks also represented the thriving consumer culture of the 1960s.

The paintings were sure to get a lot of attention because of the controversy surrounding the idea that art could be preoccupied with something so ordinary while at the same time representing what is a mass-produced commercial product. 

Initially, the gallery sold several Soup Cans paintings to individual buyers. After realizing that the paintings should have been sold as a set, just like Warhol had intended, they decided to buy back all of the individual pieces sold. 

Following Warhol’s passing, Blum ended up selling the whole collection to the Museum of Art in New York for more than $15 million.

The Effect of Campbell’s Soup Cans on Pop Art

andy warhol

Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans is one of the most recognizable artworks from the twentieth century. Artistic value aside, the paintings have left a lasting imprint on consumer culture on the whole. His paintings of the cans have become a cultural icon, representing not just Warhol but the Pop Art movement in its entirety. 

But Warhol accomplished so much more than that. His art has had a profound cultural and historical influence and aesthetic value.

It is impossible to overlook the lasting impact that the series has had on the creative community on a whole, regardless of how an individual may have felt about the series when it was first made. The series is widely considered one of Warhol’s most iconic collections of work and has been displayed in museum exhibits across the world. The artworks are a subtle reminder of the immense power of art to provoke thought and discussion.

Warhol’s art still resonates over half a century after its production. The cans’ meaning and importance continue to be contested and studied by famous artists and critics, and they are often replicated and referred to in popular culture. Warhol’s contributions to the art world are still felt today, and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.