Colored Campbell’s Soup Can (Cream of Tomato), circa 1964
Mixed media on linen
40″ x 30″
Private Collection, London (acquired possibly from the artist, early 1970s)
Rob Donnell, Palm Springs and Varon Bonicos, Oslo, Norway
Colored Campbell’s Soup Can (Cream of Tomato) was likely an experimental effort that preceded the series of twenty Colored Campbell’s Soup Can paintings of 1965 — all of which were Tomato Soup. What’s interesting here is how Warhol added the words “Cream of” to the Tomato soup flavor. At the time that this painting was made, Warhol was under siege from Campbell’s, who had threatened litigation over the creation of his original red and white Soup Can paintings from 1962. There’s a possibility that Warhol added “Cream of” as a way to avoid a direct copyright infringement. With his background in illustration and advertising, Warhol was certainly aware of how copyright laws worked.
The irony is that in 1964 — while Warhol was painting this “Cream of” canvas but before he completed the Colored Soup Cans series — Campbell’s determined that Warhol’s art was good for business and commissioned a red and white Soup Can painting to hang in the chairman’s office.