Controversial Andy Warhol painting series put on display at Waddesdon Manor in Aylesbury

By Mark Sheerin | 31 March 2011
A silkscreen painting featuring a photo of actress Sarah Bernhardt
Andy Warhol, Sarah Bernhardt (1980)© DACS
Exhibition: Andy Warhol’s Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century, Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, March 30 – October 30 2011

Alongside renaissance earthenware, 17th century books and a 19th century dining table, a controversial series of Warhol paintings from the 20th century can now be seen at Waddesdon Manor.

The Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century were a commission from a New York gallerist and an Israeli art dealer. On their first appearance at The Jewish Museum in New York in 1980 some critics were cynical.

While calling them "Jewish geniuses", the Pop art mogul also claimed to choose his ten subjects because “I like the faces.” Others noted his previous lack of interest in all things Jewish.

But whatever his motivations or selection criteria, the series does find Warhol giving his trademark star treatment to characters of a more serious type than usual. It has also been said that the silkscreen paintings represent a new level of technical sophistication.

The top ten includes: Sarah Bernhardt, Louis Brandeis, Martin Buber, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, George Gershwin, Franz Kafka, the Marx Brothers, Golda Meir and Gertrude Stein.

A loan from the Blavatnik family offers a rare chance to see the series in the UK. It was not until 2006 when they first appeared here at the National Portrait Gallery.

Stateside, the paintings inspired an hour-long dramatic performance in 2009. The Josh Kornbluth monologue Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews? was, fittingly, also a commission.

  • Open 12pm-4pm Wednesday-Sunday (from 11am weekends). Admission to Waddesdon Manor and gardens £15/£11.
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