Lenin by Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol’s portfolio of Lenin includes two screen prints on paper. Andy Warhol’s Red Lenin is generally considered by experts to be the more iconic image, although recently the Black Lenin prints have proved more collectible. The only difference between these two Andy Warhol screen prints of Lenin is the color way.
Andy Warhol’s portrait of the Russian political leader, Vladimir Lenin, diverges from many of the conventions that seem to define Warhol’s oeuvre. In this piece, Lenin is set against a deep red backdrop, with minimal lines, only employed to distinguish his face and hand. The print lacks the contrast and details that characterize so many of Warhol’s prints. The only aspect of the print that is not enveloped by the solid block of a deep, crimson red is the yellow of Lenin’s face and hand and the gray of his collar and armrest. The lack of extraneous detail and color deters the viewer from focusing on anything else other than the face of the communist maverick who is one of the most notable political figures of the 20thcentury.
Here is the father of Russia’s communist revolution, set against the deep crimson red, which is as symbolic to the revolution as the man who led it. This Red Lenin print is testimony to a man’s intelligence and power, which supersedes a physical existence. While Warhol was known for his self-admitted shallowness and obsession with glamour, this portrait illustrates the diversity of Warhol’s subject matter; that he was not simply confined to portraying beautiful celebrities or icons of wealth.
Andy Warhol’s Lenin, 1987, is a screen print in colors on Arches paper, created by the artist the year he died. This rare print highlights Warhol’s fascination with the boundary between politics and celebrity, seen here in the glamorization of Lenin’s face and the vibrancy of the red background. Throughout his extensive career, Warhol created portraits of a vast cross-section of individuals including, friends, actors, and world leaders. By creating portraits in his distinctive pop style, the artist mirrored the commercial products of the time while developing his own extensive lexicon of political portraiture, dating back to Roman emperors and Egyptian pharaohs. This portrait of Lenin is part of the second series that the artist produced of the leader.