‘Good poets borrow, great poets steal’
– T.S. Eliot
Four Warhol Flowers is an important example of one of Sturtevant’s most significant bodies of works. This rare and historic series of silk-screen paintings, first shown in her debut exhibition at Bianchini Gallery, New York in 1965, quoted Andy Warhol’s iconic Flowers exhibited just a couple of weeks before. In fact, Sturtevant, rather than reimagining the subject, used a silkscreen that Warhol had given her to create further versions of the composition; famously, when asked about his own technique, Warhol commented ‘I don’t know. Ask Elaine.’ The present work shows Sturtevant’s return to this specific floral pattern a few years later (1969-70) when she repeated it across four attached canvases that she then joined together. With its single red flower, the upper right canvas is based on Warhol’s Flowers (cat. no. 1344) from 1964, whilst the other three draw upon the same configuration of blooms in white. Extending the legacy of Marcel Duchamp, Sturtevant’s explorations of appropriation began in 1964, when she started to manually reproduce works of art by memory – focusing at first on those created by her contemporaries such as Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Jasper Johns and Warhol. Selecting easily recognizable motifs from their oeuvres and deliberately mimicking their aesthetics, Sturtevant posed a critical challenge to notions of authenticity and authorship in an era increasingly dominated by reproduction. The importance of Warhol’s ‘brand’ in solidifying Sturtevant’s early career was not only evident through her decision to explore several of his images in her works (ranging from the Flowers to the Marilyns) but also in her choice to present an entire show consisting of her repetition of Warhol’s Flowers in 1991.