Christopher Knight’s brilliant essay on Warhol’s Jackie series being a conscious effort by the artist to replicate the weeping woman motif that Picasso used to make sense of the bombing of Guernica as he tried to mark the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But within that essay is this trenchant comment on Warhol’s fixation on Picasso:
Warhol was obsessed with Picasso — more specifically, obsessed with his standing as the greatest living Modern artist. Since arriving in New York from Pittsburgh a dozen years earlier, the ambitious younger painter had gotten nowhere. But just as the Picasso bandwagon rolled into town, he was finally getting traction: His Pop solo gallery debut — Campbell’s soup can paintings at Los Angeles’ Ferus Gallery — even coincided with MOMA’s Picasso birthday salute.
Once his own star rose, Warhol declared his Picasso affinity. In 1966 he covered a room at New York’s Leo Castelli Gallery with a surrogate self-portrait — bright yellow wallpaper sporting the hot-pink head of a cow. For the effeminate gay artist, the coy pink cow was equivalent to Picasso’s famous self-identification with a robust bull or mythic Minotaur. Warhol repeated the coquettish gesture in his first big international museum solo shows — in Stockholm in 1968 and then in 1970 at the Pasadena (now Norton Simon) Art Museum.