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Merce Cunningham

Andy Warhol, 6 Aug 1928 - 22 Feb 1987
Merce Cunningham, 16 Apr 1919 - 26 Jul 2009
Screenprint on Cockerell paper
Image: 48.3 x 65cm (19 x 25 9/16")
Sheet: 65 x 51.5cm (25 9/16 x 20 1/4")
Mat: 91.4 x 66cm (36 x 26")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
© Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / ARS, New York
Object number
Exhibition Label
Born Centralia, Washington
One of the great avant-garde figures of modern dance, Merce Cunningham was a protégé of Martha Graham and performed with her company from 1939 to 1945. He then began his lifelong partnership with composer John Cage, merging his abstract choreography with Cage’s austere modernism to produce works of unstructured randomness. Cunningham often only told his dancers about the sequence of the dances they were to perform just before they went onstage: dance, he believed, was as complex and as random as life itself.
In 1953 he formed his own company, where he showcased abstract dance focused on pure movement. Although he created nearly 200 works, Cunningham always recognized the ephemeral nature of dance: “You have to love dance to stick to it. It gives you nothing back . . . but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.”
AndyWarhol created this portrait as a proof for a print in the portfolio Cunningham I, a fund-raising effort for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection