His name, as well as his preeminent work in the pop art movement, is among the most recognizable in the vast universe of modern art. But before Andy Warhol became a household name for his colorful incarnations of pop culture (which include the now iconic repeated images of Marilyn Monroe, Mao Tse-tung, and Campbell’s soup cans, among others), he spent over a decade sketching the human figure — most often, erotically charged male nudes.
All images via Taschen & The Andy Warhol Foundation For The Visual Arts, Inc.
Though Warhol once famously stated that he was “afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning,” he certainly did not seem to lose inspiration in the human form, having produced over 1,000 from-life sketches during the 1950s and early ’60s.
In Andy Warhol. Love, Sex & Desire: Drawings 1950-1962, readers are now privy to just over 300 drawings from this era, focusing on his seductive and intelligently simple line-drawings of naked men.
Underestimating the staunch homophobia of the pre-sexual revolution times in which the works were produced, Warhol had big plans to publish the illustrations in a monograph — and even exhibited some of them in a 1956 exhibit at Bodley Gallery on New York’s Upper East Side. Sadly, the artist’s dreams of featuring this collection in a book or large exhibit never happened in his lifetime, which is exactly why the book’s creators were inspired to create Love, Sex & Desire.
The sketches — which sometimes depict kissing or fellatio between male lovers — more so than any of his more famous works, reveal the humanity of the quietly clever artist who preferred the attention to be on others. In them, we get a glimpse of the Warhol we don’t know — a flesh and blood queer man, complete with the desires and vulnerabilities that drives us all. We also see in the work a lesser-known artistic side of him, images comprised of confidently organic lines often seen in our greatest art masters, occasionally speckled with black hearts, butterflies, or other delicious additions.
Edited and featuring an introduction by the director of licensing at the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Michael Dayton Hermann, the edition features only images specifically chosen by the foundation. In addition, Love, Sex & Desire includes esays by Warhol biographer Blake Gopnik and art critic Drew Zeiba, as well as poignant poetry by James Baldwin, Thom Gunn, Harold Norse, Essex Hemphill, and Allen Ginsberg.
A version of this story first appeared in Out's 2021 Hollywood Issue. Jake Borelli is featured on the cover alongside Ryan O'Connell and Alexandra Grey. It is the first print issue under the editorial direction of editor-in-chief David Artavia. The issue is out on newsstands on March 3, 2021. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe — or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News +.