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Camera and Travel Films,

and Matador Painting

Matador

Camera and Travel Films, and Matador Painting

Charles Lisanby

1956

Gift of Charles Lisanby

These films are artifacts from the trip Charles and Andy took around the world from June 16th to August 12th of 1956. While they originally planned to stop in San Francisco, Honolulu, Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Egypt and Rome, medical complications in Calcutta forced them to cut their Asian tour short. Charles wittingly recollects, “I got quite ill in India, and we flew as quickly as we could to Italy because if I was going to be sick, I'd be sick in Italy”. However, before they arrived in Rome Charles and Andy decided to stop in Egypt.  They arrived amidst news of President Gamal Abdel Nasser's controversial decision to nationalize the Suez Canal, a decision which would eventually lead to the first of many conflicts between Egypt and Israel.

As Charles remembers:

"It was the Suez Crisis. We flew over the Canal as it was happening. When we arrived in Cairo we were taken off the plane, and there were tanks with guns aimed at the plane and everything else, and we were taken off the plane into a little room, shown a documentary or, I guess, more of a propagandistic film, which I didn't pay much attention to. There were soldiers all over the place. Machine guns and everything. The plane was refueled, and we were put back on the plane... When we arrived in Rome, the extra was already on the street: 'Suez.' I got better in Rome”.

Because they were now unable to visit Cairo and Luxor, Charles and Andy decided to venture north to Amsterdam before finally returning to the United States.

According to Charles, this trip had a profound effect on Andy, who had previously never been far from his native Pittsburgh—much less outside of the United States. The diverse cultures and experiences that they were introduced to, especially in Asia, were to have an overwhelming influence on Andy’s work both in the years immediately following, and indeed throughout the rest of his career. Speaking on an illustrated book Andy made in December of that year—now referred to as The Fairy Book—Charles says:

“...These pictures here - In the Bottom of My Garden - these were done after our famous tour around the world, and in Amsterdam... while we were there, we found a series of little books... of fairies wearing flowers as costumes, and so on. And he really based all of these drawings in this section on those. I suppose not all of them, but the whole idea was, more or less, inspired by these things...”

Charles also speculates that Andy was encouraged to see the decorative potential of gold leaf—a material that strongly suggests the refinement and preciousness that Andy aimed for in all of his art—during their travels in Asia:

 "This whole thing when he did the whole gold leaf thing. This was also a result of our trip because in Siam or Thailand in one of the museums there, he saw those marvelous pieces of furniture with gold leaf, and then, painting black, leaving areas of gold leaf showing. It is a typical Siamese type of decoration... And that - since he already had the black line, the blotted-line, he thought of adding the gold leaf. In fact, he did these things, all of these things, shortly after that."

Although Andy was undoubtedly the most frequent scribe on their trip, Charles also took the opportunity to consume the various new people and places that he was exposed to daily through drawing. One of the best works based on the trip, obviously done months after from a sketch, is a particularly vibrant painting by Charles of a matador, displayed here.