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Campbell's soup can vs. Campbell's soup can: which is art?

What characteristics determine if two quite similar objects are or are not works of art? Asking students to set personal standards and then apply that criteria to images and objects assists young learners in justifying personal opinions about the nature of art.

There is no lack of enthusiasm when aesthetic problems are posed. Children's oral and written expressions typically are not hindered by technical art jargon and may, there fore, seem unsophisticated to the trained ear; however, this lack of vocabulary does not prevent elementary-age children from delving wholeheartedly into attempting to solve aesthetic problems. This lesson about Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Can sparked heated debates and provoked in-depth discussion when it was introduced to a group of fourth grade students.


* poster of Andy Warhol's Campbells's Soup Can

* can of Campbell's tomato soup

* paper and pencil


Students will closely observe and describe Warhol's Campbell's Soup Can and an actual Campbell's tomato soup can label, contrast and compare the image and object, explore criteria for determining if an image or object is a work of art, and justify reasons.

RELATED ARTICLE: Procedure, Part One

1. Display a poster of Warhol's Campbell's Soup Can. Ask the students to carefully observe the image and to describe what they see. Require that the students determine the artist, title of the image, time period, style, culture, and media. Record the information on the chalkboard.

2. Display an actual can of Campbell's tomato soup. Ask the students to observe the object and to determine the same information that was recorded for the Warhol image. Record this information on the chalkboard.

3. Contrast and compare the image to the object. How are they different? How are they the same? Which was designed first? Who designed the label? What is the function of the image?. What is the function of the object?

4. Ask the students to consider: Which soup can is a work of art? Is neither a work of art? Are both works of art?

RELATED ARTICLE: Procedure, Part Two

1. Organize students into small collaborative groups.

2. Distribute a sheet of writing paper and pencil, and assign a recorder for each group.

3. Ask the students to make a list of at least five characteristics that determine if something is a work of art.

4. After the lists are complete, ask the students which soup can they now consider most to be a work of art.

5. Apply the criteria from each list to both objects. As the students question the nature of art, they should realize that art comes in many forms and is not necessarily easy to define. Some lines of questioning to consider with students are:

Does a work of art need to be original? If so, then which of these soup cans is the work of art?

Should a work of art be one-of-a-kind? How many actual soup can labels do you think have been produced? How many Campbell's soup cans were produced?

Should a work of art be found only in places such as galleries or museums? If art is found in other places, is the soup can in the grocery store a work of art? If the actual can of tomato soup were placed in an art museum by the artist, would it then be a work of art?

Should thE intent of the works' creators be considered? Did Warhol intend for his Campbell's Soup Can to be accepted as a work of art? Did the graphic artist who created the soup can label intend for this to be accepted as a work of art?

RELATED ARTICLE: About the Artist

Andy Warhola was born August 6, 1926, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Czech immigrant parents. He studied pictorial design at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and received his BFA in 1949. He moved to New York City, changed his name to Warhol, and worked as a commercial artist and illustrator. Warhol's first solo exhibition was in 1952 when he was awarded the Art Directors Club Medal for newspaper advertising art. Warhol continued his commercial art career until the early 1960s when he first began to paint in the popular (Pop) art style.

Pop art draws its content from commercialism and products familiar to industrialized society Warhol's first works in this style included the Campbell's Soup paintings and silkscreen prints. Warhol became known for unusual exhibitions, such as stacking boxes of common household scouring pads in an art museum. Later, Warhol experimented with a 16mm movie camera and produced films, such as Sleep, a documentary of a man sleeping. Andy Warhol died February 22, 1987, in New York City after gall bladder surgery. The Andy Warhol Museum opened in 1994 in the artist's hometown. The museum features an extensive permanent collection of Warhol's work.


Ask the students to research the role of graphic artists. How does this art career differ from Warhol's? How is it the same?

Assign students the problem of determining who designed the original Campbell's tomato soup label and the process used to create it. How does this method compare with Warhol's art procedure?


Art & Man. (April/May 1988). "Andy Warhol: Pop Art."

Janson, H. W., and A. F. Janson. History of Art for Young People. 4th ed. New York: Abrams, 1992.

The Andy Warhol Museum 117 Sandusky Street Pittsburgh, PA 15212-5890 http: //

Pamela Stephens is a teaching fellow at the University of North Texas and a graduate research assistant at the North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts, Denton, Texas.

Nancy Walkup is the Project Coordinator for the North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas.

Jan Dodd is an art specialist at Bedford Heights Elementary, Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District, Bedford, Texas.
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Title Annotation:includes information on Andy Warhol
Author:Dodd, Jan
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Biography
Date:Nov 1, 1996
Previous Article:Art from art history: portraits in clay.
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