Fascinated with fame and widespread imagery, Warhol created the Myths portfolio of ten fictional characters from 20th century American pop culture: Santa Claus, Mickey Mouse, the Wicked Witch of the West, Howdy Doody, Uncle Sam, Dracula, Superman, Mammy, The Star and The Shadow. These subjects from classic Hollywood films, literature and television are rendered with Pop colors, contour lines, and diamond dust to reflect American theatricality and Hollywood glamour. Warhol both photographed costumed models and appropriated portraits from preexisting mass media images. The characters aren’t directly related to each other, but their commonality is that they are part of America’s collective consciousness and recognized around the world. Warhol’s Myths series transforms established icons into brightly colored Pop Art.
His selection of characters from the 1940s and 1950s exemplifies Warhol’s nostalgia for America’s enchanted past and his childhood idols. As a child he was diagnosed with an illness, during which he found comfort in Superman comics – an unlikely hero he idolized. Superman, Uncle Sam, Dracula, the Wicked Witch, Uncle Sam were contemporary heroes and evil villains. The depiction of popular famous television characters and movie stars, such as Superman, The Star, and Howdy Doody, shows Warhol’s preoccupation with celebrity. His obsession with excess and festivity inspired the inclusion of Santa Claus, the bearer of consumer presents on Christmas. Warhol always loved Mickey Mouse because of his immense fame and strove to achieve Mickey’s high status as a cultural symbol in America. Accordingly, he used a self-portrait for The Shadow, a 1930s crime-fighting hero. The use of his own face and profile’s shadow places Warhol among his idols and popular culture icons of the 20th century.
Myths, 1981, is a portfolio of four screenprints on Lenox Museum Board, 38” x 38” each. The set is an edition of 200, 30 Artist Proofs, 5 Printer’s Proofs, and 5 Edition Proofs, signed and numbered in pencil as follows: The Star, The Witch, Howdy Doody, Mickey Mouse – verso; Uncle Sam, Superman, Mammy, Dracula, Santa Claus, The Shadow – lower right; Mickey Mouse – lower left. All regular edition prints have diamond dust, except Dracula; most TP have diamond dust. The series was published through Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., New York. Printer: Rupert Jasen Smith, New York.