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Electric chair

Painting, 1963, 137.2×185.3 cm

Description of the artwork «Electric chair»

Once Andy Warhol said, "At some point I realized that everything I do has something to do with death". The theme of disappearance, death as transformation, and life after death is omnipresent in the artist’s work. The Big Electric Chair series was part of Warhol's Death and Disaster massive cycle, which he began in 1962. Showing pain and suffering, those pictures were something entirely new. They differed radically from the dollar bills, or the soup cans, but they miraculously carried the same idea as all other artworks of the artist. Like a bottle of Coke, death was the everyday part of American life.

Andy used photos from newspapers in all the artworks from the Death and Disaster series. One of the first works of this cycle was a copy of the front page of the newspaper with a photo of a car accident. It was followed by the images of suicides, riots, nuclear mushroom cloud, airplane crashes and automobile accidents (1, 2). The artist began to paint the portraits of Marilyn Monroe only after the death of the actress. In his Sixteen Jackies artwork, the happy photos of a smiling Jacqueline Kennedy intermingle with the sorrowful images of the President’s funeral. The reason for the Warhol's passion for the theme of death was not only its constant presence in everyday life, but it was also an attempt to observe how we can distance ourselves from its impact. "When you see terrible pictures again and again, they cease to have effect on you," Andy Warhol said.

Warhol began his electric chair series in 1964. The basis for it was the 1953 newspaper picture of the two executions in the Sing Sing prison when Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sent to the electric chairs for spying for the Soviet Union. One important feature distinguishes the electric chair series from the other works of the Death and Disaster cycle: not a single person can be seen there. Time seems to be frozen in anticipation of the imminent crash, the air around the "chair of death" seems thick and viscous. In the emptiness and stillness of the room, Warhol managed to portray death as the oppressive silence and the absence of life.

Written by Eugeniya Sidelnikova 

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About the artwork

This artwork was added since it is referred to in the materials below

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Genre scene

Style of art: Pop Art

Technique: Acrylic, Silk-screen ink

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1963

Size: 137.2×185.3 cm

Artwork in selections: 14 selections