The image of the electric chair was first used by Warhol in 1964 in the 'Death and Disaster' series, a loose group of works that occupied the artist from 1962 to 1965. Warhol noted that it was Henry Geldzahler, then curator of Twentieth Century Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York:
who gave me the idea to start the Death and Disaster series. We were both having lunch one day in the summer [of 1962] … and he laid the Daily News out on the table. The headline was '129 die in jet', and that's what started me on the death series - the Car Crashes, the Disasters, the Electric Chairs…1
The image of the chair - the electric chair at Sing-Sing Gaol, New York - was repeated as multiple images in the first series. In 1967, in preparation for his retrospective at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, the following year, Warhol, re-used the image for a series of fourteen paintings in different colour combinations. Here only a single image of the chair is used.
The Australian National Gallery's work is from this series. The same image was used again in 1971 in a portfolio of ten screenprints published by Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich.
The Gallery also holds a later suite of paintings by Andy Warhol, Henry Gillespie 1985.
Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.328.
- Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett, POPism: The Warhol? '60s, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980, p.17.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010