Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
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PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN COLLECTION
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

Bald Eagle

细节
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Bald Eagle
signed, titled and dated 'eagel [sic] Andy Warhol 83' (on the overlap)
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
60 x 60 in. (152.4 x 152.4 cm.)
Painted in 1983.
来源
Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., New York
Private collection
Zelart, Mineola, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2001

荣誉呈献

Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis

拍品专文

A national symbol of strength, courage, freedom, and immortality the bald eagle is proudly stamped across the coinage and official seals of the American government. While the national bird of the United States was largely thought to be chosen due to the founding fathers’ fondness for comparing their new republic to the Roman Republic in which eagle imagery was prominent, the bald eagle has long been central to the sacred religious and spiritual practices of many Native American cultures. Set against a boldly patriotic red, at first glance Andy Warhol’s Bald Eagle is a stately expression national pride. However, not dissimilar to his earlier depictions of the Statue of Liberty and the former First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, Bald Eagle is anything but pomp and circumstance.

Born out of a discussion with the art dealers and long-time political and environmental activists, Ronald and Frayda Feldman, Warhol’s series Endangered Species features a portfolio of ten magnificently diverse animals from across the globe—all of which by the 1980s had been prominently featured on the Endangered Species List. Portrayed in a vibrant array of electrifying rainbow colors, Warhol’s Endangered Species series exposes the horrifying number of nearly extinct animals from African elephants to pine barrens tree frogs, giant pandas, and silverspot butterflies creating a dynamic tension between art and reality. 

A brilliant predator of the skies, the bald eagle exhibits the same bad boy persona as Warhol’s iconic depictions of Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley. As Benjamin Franklin, who famously proposed the turkey as the national bird of the United States, wrote, “For my own part I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labour of the fishing hawk; and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him, and takes it from him. With all this injustice, he is never in good case, but like those among men who live by sharping and robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy” (B. Franklin, letter to Sarah Bache, January 26, 1784, accessed as www.founders.archives.gov).

And yet, perhaps more so than any other animal in the Endangered Species series, the bald eagle transforms into a later, but no less poignant, example of Warhol’s Death and Disaster paintings of the 1960s. A confronting headshot of the national bird, Bald Eagle is placed front and center against a flat red background on Warhol’s standard 40 by 40 inch canvas, a haunting reminder of the iconic 1964 Red Jackie.  Like the beloved President Kennedy assassinated in his motorcade, the bald eagle—conceivably the most revered animal and beloved symbol of the American people—had been pushed to the brink of total extinction. Bald Eagle stands as proudly and as confidently as Liz, Marilyn, and Jackie before him, yet like the tragic stars the underlying tone is anything but glamorous. 

While it was once predicted that nearly 500,000 bald eagles graced the skies above North America, the eagles’ population began to significantly decline in the mid-twentieth century. Though the birds had been protected since the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty between the United States and Canada, the growing use of pesticides in the twentieth century lead to a rapid decline. While pesticides were not lethal to the adult eagles, many adults became sterile or unable to lay healthy eggs that became nearly impossible to hatch. Additional causes for the bald eagles decline have been attributed to widespread loss of habitat and both legal and illegal hunting. By the 1950s, it was believed that only 412 pairs of nesting bald eagles resided in the contiguous United States. Resultantly, in 1967 the United States declared their own national symbol an endangered species.  

Fortunately, due to a series of laws passed in the 1970s and 80s—chief among them the 1972 ban of the DDT pesticide which was responsible for the dramatic decrease in the fertility of many birds—the bald eagle population slowly began to recover. In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service reclassified the status of the bald eagle from endangered to threatened, and in 2007 the eagle was delisted from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and currently holds the status of least concern. However, due to the national importance of the bird, it remains heavily protected. In the United States, permits are required to keep bald eagles in captivity. Primarily issued to public educational institutions, permits are only granted to house individual eagles that have been permanently injured and cannot safely be released into the wild, offering a haven for bald eagles who have been critically injured. Furthermore, due to the exceptionally sacred nature of the bald eagle to certain North American indigenous cultures, the Eagle Feather Law states that only individuals of certifiable Native American ancestry enrolled in a federally recognized tribe are legally authorized to obtain or possess bald or golden eagle feathers for use in their religious or spiritual practices. The National Eagle Repository serves as a centralized institution to receive, store, and distribute the remains of deceased bald and golden eagles to federally recognized Native American tribes.  

Indeed, for an artist who reveled in consumerism and the dark undercurrents of American culture and symbolism Bald Eagle stands out as quintessential subject matter within Warhol’s oeuvre.

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