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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Double Elvis

Photo: Paul Macapia
© 2007 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / ARS, New York

Double Elvis


Andy Warhol

American, 1928 - 1987

This life-size portrait of Elvis was made at a time when his star power was beginning to be overshadowed by a new generation. The original image is most likely sourced from a publicity still for the Western Flaming Star (1960), in which Elvis played the lead. To Warhol, the movie's title was clearly suggestive on a number of levels - it captured the fleeting glamour of celebrity, and also hinted at Elvis' sex appeal for women and gay men. The serial image and silver backdrop reference the silver screen of the movies.

In 1976, Warhol made a second, blank panel to be paired with the painting. Beginning in the 1960s, he combined celebrity portraits with a blank screen to emphasize absence and loss. It is especially poignant that Warhol modified the work just one year before Elvis' death.
Silkscreen ink and synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Each panel: 82 1/4 x 59 1/8 in. (208.9 x 150.2cm)
National Endowment for the Arts, PONCHO and the Seattle Art Museum Guild
Provenance: Purchased from Stephen Mazoh, New York City; Comm. by Seattle Art Museum and purchased with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, PONCHO and the Seattle Art Museum Guild, January 12, 1976
Photo: Paul Macapia
Not currently on view

Once you 'got' Pop, you could never see a sign again the same way again. And once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again.

Andy Warhol

Warhol and Photography

Andy Warhol began working with photo-booth photographs in the early 1950s, when he was creating layouts for fashion magazines. He continued to use photo-booth images as inspiration for his silk-screens in the mid 1960s. In the 1970s, he acquired a Polaroid camera with which he took the first snapshots that were the basis for his celebrity portrait silk screens. When Andy Warhol died in 1987, he left a photographic archive of between 60,000 and 100,000 Polaroid photographs.

Warhol asked "Who wants the truth?" The artist referred to his celebrity photographs as "figments"--in reference to a moment's past, the nearness of death and the disappearance of one's bodily image. Was Warhol critical of the mass media? Was the artist for or against the mythicizing of celebrities by making them appear otherworldly and above the rest of us? Warhol shot personalized photographic images, often requesting the celebrity pose for hours, until he got the snapshot he considered to be "the one." However, he would later blow up these small images to create larger-than-life photographs that appeared unreal. The use of repetition is a clear allusion to the photo-booth style that  initially inspired him. Holly Solomon explained how "We went to Broadway and 47th Street, where they had this photobooth ... Andy met me there ... He was very particular about which booth ... We tried a bunch of them."

In his 1963 "death and disaster" series, Warhol began to use documentary photographs to create his silk screens. Images of car crashes, race riots and electric chairs made their way into his work as corollaries to the celebrity glamour images. The public's fascination with celebrity images and death and disasters, as exposed in the mass media and the advertising and film industries, is a very contemporary theme.
Holly, 1966, Andy Warhol
Collection of Richard and Betty Hedreen. © 2007 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / ARS, New York


Kevin Young, Poet and Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, shares his perspective on Double Elvis
For SAM's My Favorite Things series in 2016, designer Andrew Burkhardt highlights Andy Warhol's Double Elvis.


Exhibition HistoryVancouver, British Columbia, Vancouver Art Gallery, The Seattle Art Museum Lends, Mar. 13 - Apr. 11, 1976. No cat. no.

Seattle, Washington, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, An Urban Vernacular: Narrative American Art, Mar. 12 - Apr. 25, 1982.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Contempory Art, 1987.

Seattle, Washington, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Myth Of The West, Sept. 13 - Nov. 25, 1990.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Collection Highlights: 1945 to the Present, Sept. 12, 1996 - June 1, 1997.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Documents International: Eleven Heads Are Better than One: Sixth Graders Connect with SAM, Apr. 1, 1999 - Apr. 2, 2000.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, 2000 1/2: going forward looking back, June 8 - July 16, 2000.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, First Person Singular, May 31, 2001 - July 21, 2002.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Modern in America, II, Nov. 5, 2004 - Jan. 4, 2006.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Pop Departures, Oct. 9, 2014 - Jan. 11, 2015. Text by Catharina Manchanda, et al. No cat. no., p. 103, reproduced pp. 14-15.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Reverberations: Contemporary Art and Modern Classics, Dec. 22, 2022 - ongoing.
Published ReferencesMathes, Charles. Treasures of American Museums. New York: Mallard Press, 1991; 1.

Selected Works. Seattle, Wash.: Seattle Art Museum, 1991; p. 129, reproduced on cover (detail) and reproduced on p. 129.

McCarthy, David. "Andy Warhol's Silver Elvises: Meaning through Context at the Ferus Gallery in 1963," in The Art Bulletin, Vol. 88, No. 2 (June 2006); pp. 354-372, p. 362 (54).

Seattle Art Museum: Bridging Cultures. London: Scala Publishers Ltd. for the Seattle Art Museum, 2007; p. 13.

Archer, Michael. Jeff Koons: One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank. London: Afterall Books, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London, 2011; p. 71.

Abrams, Nora Burnett, Myeshia C. Babers, R. Alan Brooks, et al. Cowboy. New York: Rizzoli Electa, MCA Denver, 2023. p. 208-209.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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