United States of America 1928 – 1987


printer (organisation)


publisher (organisation)

Electric chairs 1971 Description: a portfolio of 10 screenprints
Place made: New York Zurich, New York Zürich canton, United States of America Switzerland
Materials & Technique: prints, screenprint, printed in coloured inks. Support: paper
Impression: 22/250
Edition: edition of 250 plus 50 artist's proofs numbered in roman numerals
Place Published: Zurich, Switzerland
Date Published: 1971

Edition Notes: printer: Silkprint Kettner, Zurich, Switzerland
Primary Insc: each print is signed and dated, verso, in ball-point pen 'Andy Warhol' '71'
Secondary Insc: each print is stamped, verso, '22/250'
Dimensions: sheet (each) 90.0 h x 121.6 w cm
Cat Raisonné: 11.74-83, pp. 74-75
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1972
Accession No: NGA 72.161.1-10
Image rights: © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ARS. Licensed by Viscopy
  • Warhol’s friend, the curator Henry Geldzahler, suggested that the artist should address tougher subjects. In response Warhol pursued themes of death and disaster, frequently sourcing images from sensational tabloids or pulp magazines. He was attracted to the themes of car crashes, race riots and executions, which as images appear in often macabre, trashy or banal formulations. These images of death and disaster retain an enigmatic lingering power.

    The Electric chair series of prints from 1971 recycled imagery already seen in Warhol’s painting. Both canvases and prints were derived from a photograph of the electric chair in Sing Sing Penitentiary in Ossining, New York, where the convicted Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg had been executed on 13 January 1953 at the height of the Cold War. This photograph of the electric chair was released by the press service Wide World Photo on the day of the execution.

    For the prints, the artist cropped the photograph, honing in on the empty chair. Often using pastel decorator colours, applied in a painterly manner, the contrast between the deathly subject and the softened almost delicate technique underscores the horror of the execution chamber.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra