His early clients included retailers like Tiffany & Co. and Bonwit Teller, as well as fashion magazines like Vogue, Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar. Warhol endeared himself to his employers with witty, colorful illustrations, often accompanied by captions in a jaunty cursive script modeled on his mother’s handwriting.
Among his works from that time is Christmas Tree, a lithograph in black with gold leaf. Despite the name, the only hint of a holiday fir is one small sprig. Instead, Warhol stacks up baubles and emblems of the season in the shape of a traditional Tannenbaum.
The image ran in the December 1957 issue of Bazaar alongside advice on holiday gifting. In addition to herald angels and boughs of holly — not to mention a French hen and a golden ring — it features motifs that became Warhol signatures, such as an elegant shoe, lips and a cat who may or may not have been named Sam. Christmas Tree also appeared in the announcement for “A Show of Golden Pictures,” Warhol’s exhibition that month at the Bodley Gallery, on the city’s Upper East Side.
“When people think about Andy Warhol, Christmas is not usually what comes to mind, yet Warhol was a confessed fan of this holiday season, and it inspired many of his works throughout his career,” says Giorgia Zardetto, managing director at Weng Contemporary, which is offering a hand-signed, circa 1957 copy of the print for sale on 1stDibs Auctions (although the size of the edition is unknown, only about 15 were signed).
Warhol was a practicing Catholic and a lover of social gatherings whose work famously celebrated consumerism, from his images of Chanel No. 5 perfume bottles to his Brillo boxes. So, it perhaps shouldn’t be surprising that he embraced Christmas, which wraps up religion, bonhomie, pop culture and capitalism with a big red satiny bow. Two of the better-known examples of his Christmas-themed works were his greeting cards for Tiffany’s, which the jeweler put out every year from 1957 to 1962, and the portraits of Santa Claus he created for his 1981 series “Myths.”
The piece up for auction resembles a card itself, with the golden illustration printed on the front of a folded sheet and “Merry Christmas” written inside. At about 13 by 10 inches, it’s oversize for a seasonal missive, but it’s hard to imagine a more spectacular one. Bid now, and make someone’s holiday very happy.