Cowboys and Indians is a portfolio of images from popular stories, myths and legends of the American West. Created in 1986, Cowboys and Indians’ ten screenprints depict Western entertainers, heroes, and stereotyped portrayals of American Indians: John Wayne, Annie Oakley, General Custer, Northwest Coast Mask, Kachina Dolls, Plains Indian Shield, Mother and Child, Geronimo, Indian Nickel Head, Teddy Roosevelt. The 36 Trail Proof editions contain the additional four prints: War Bonnett Indian, Buffalo Nickel, Action Picture and Sitting Bull. The portfolio was one of the last series produced before Warhol’s death in 1987, and is one of his most iconic sets of screenprints.
As a pop artist, Warhol drew inspiration from culture and our collective imagination. Cowboys and Indians includes both exploited images of American Indians and the popular version of Western history in a single portfolio. Plains Indian Shield, Mother and Child, and Kachina Dolls are stereotyped images of the West. Portraits of John Wayne, Annie Oakley and Teddy Roosevelt were taken from contemporary newspapers, television programs and films. The depiction of these entertainers and celebrities exemplify Warhol’s preoccupation with stardom. Warhol’s pairing of popular figures with romanticized images of American Indians challenges common perceptions and exposes our understanding of the West.
Warhol’s Cowboys and Indians transforms established icons into bright Pop Art. Each of the ten images was copied and enhanced with unique bold color combinations, such as red, yellow and blue. The screenprints are accentuated by vibrant figures set against a white or pale background to emphasize the subjects and their expressions. Previous to Cowboys and Indians Warhol glamorized other Native American icons, such as American Indian celebrity and activist Russell Means in 1976. The Pop colors and contour lines on both the stereotyped American Indians and popular culture’s cowboys reflect a sentimentality that only exists in Hollywood.
Cowboys and Indians, 1986, is a portfolio of ten screenprints on Lenox Museum Board, 36” x 36” each. The set is an edition of 250, 50 AP, 15 PP, 15 HC, 10 numbered in Roman numerals, signed and numbered in pencil as follows: Annie Oakley, General Custer, Kachina Dolls, Plains Indian Shield, Mother and Child, Geronimo, Indian Head Nickel - lower left; John Wayne, Northwest Coast Mask, Teddy Roosevelt – lower right. The series was published through Gaultney, Klineman Art, Inc., New York. Printer: Rupert Jasen Smith, New York.