100 Cans, 1962
Oil on canvas
72 x 52 inches (182.9 x 132.1 cm)
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1963
Andy Warhol painted a number of soup cans, either individually or in groups. When asked why, Warhol once replied, "Because I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day, for 20 years, I guess, the same thing over and over again. Someone said my life has dominated me; I liked that idea." Warhol was part of the movement known as Pop art, where artists used various aspects of popular culture as subjects for their work in an effort to get people to pay attention to the commercial world around them. In the 1960s, Campbell's was spending a great deal of money on advertising, so their soup cans were all over the media. Warhol asks us to take a closer look at these cans, designed to attract our attention in the supermarket.
100 Cans was painted by hand, assisted by stencils. A close look reveals the fact that the cans are not identical, nor are they evenly spaced. The bottom row is cut off, suggesting that they continue beyond the confines of the canvas, which leads to another aspect of the work—Warhol’s interest in machine-like processes such as mass production. Mass production is impersonal, and America was becoming more and more depersonalized. But mass production is also efficient, and Warhol admired that efficiency. He even said in 1962, "I want everybody to think alike. . . . I think everybody should be a machine."
Related Lesson Plan
Can It!? (For Grades 3–5)
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