A lifelong practicing Catholic, Warhol’s spiritual side became more evident in his art in the 1980s
A major exhibition of the artist Andy Warhol’s work is on display at London’s Tate Modern. While the doors to the museum are shuttered due to the coronavirus lockdown, interested would-be gallery-goers can check out this room-by-room tour of the exhibit here.
The retrospective, which includes the artist’s iconic images of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s soup cans, also includes a 1986 work entitled “Sixty Last Suppers,” a large-scale compilation made up of repeated images of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper.”
As a leader in the contemporary art movement known as pop art, and a familiar figure in the drug-fueled celebrity culture of the 1960s, few think of Warhol as a religious artist. But he was, in fact, a lifelong practicing Catholic, raised by Slovakian immigrants in the Ruthenian rite, an Eastern rite in communion with Rome.
Not many of his contemporaries knew of his religious side, according to Sharon Matt Atkins, the curator of a 2010 exhibition of Warhol’s religious art.
“Only his closest confidants knew he was a religious person and frequently went to Mass,” Atkins told Reuters.
In the 1980s the spiritual side of Warhol became more evident in his work. The year before he died at 58 years of age, in 1987, Warhol painted more than 100 images inspired by Da Vinci’s “Last Supper.”
At the eulogy at Warhol’s funeral art historian John Richardson said that the artist’s faith was key to understanding him.
“I’d like to recall a side of his character that he hid from all but his closest friends: his spiritual side. Those of you who knew him in circumstances that were the antithesis of spiritual may be surprised that such a side existed. But exist it did, and it’s key to the artist’s psyche,” said Richardson.
Warhol was a regular Mass-goer at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, and traveled to Rome to meet Pope John Paul II in 1980.
He was an active philanthropist who supported and regularly volunteered at a soup kitchen operated by the Church of the Heavenly Rest, an Episcopal church on E. 90th Street, in New York City. When his nephew decided he wanted to become a priest, Warhol financed his studies at the seminary.
A proposed collaboration between the Andy Warhol Museum and the Vatican Museum was cancelled in 2018 due to conflicts with a Leonardo da Vinci exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of his death. The exhibition, which would have featured Warhol’s spiritually-inspired work, was exhibited at Pittsburgh’s Warhol museum in 2018.