Andy Warhol

Repent and Sin No More! (Positive), 1985–86, Synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on canvas, Private Collection; © 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images

The More They Increased

Commentary by Joost Joustra

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Besides celebrating Andy Warhol as the quintessential artist of his time and place—the artist who held the most revealing mirror up to his generation—I’d like to recall a side of his character that he hid from all but his closest friends: his spiritual side. (Richardson 1992: 140)

With these words, the art historian John Richardson revealed Warhol’s hitherto ‘hidden’ Catholicism, in his eulogy addressed to the crowds that had gathered for the artist’s memorial service at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York in 1987. He made this perhaps surprising remark not long after Warhol had made Repent and Sin No More!.

Warhol’s inherently verbal work reads as a warning, as does Hosea 4’s address to the Israelites: the classic prophetic call ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel’ (v.1) is followed some sentences later by ‘the more they increased, the more they sinned against me’ (v.7). The people of Israel heard, but did not listen.

Notions of re-use and increase are fundamental to Warhol’s oeuvre. Reproduction and repetition are the artist’s trademark. For Repent and Sin No More!, the appropriated image took shape in two versions, a ‘positive’ and a ‘negative’, inverting the sober black-and-white of lettering and background. Their monochromatic make-up puts these works in a longstanding Christian tradition. In medieval and early-modern Europe for instance, black, white, and greys were used in the visual culture of Lent as a means for marking this period of penitence (Sliwka 2017: 27).

Repent and Sin No More! may in this sense pick up on the penitential associations of monochromatic art, in a reproducible medium and with the formal qualities that Warhol employed ever since he designed advertisements early in his career. Like Hosea’s Israelites, of whom he complains that the more they increased the less they listened, Warhol’s work in essence explores the same concept by using a mass reproduced text/image aimed at a rapidly increasing American population, an audience that was possibly equally inattentive.  

The positive and negative versions of Warhol’s work furthermore emphasize that his audience has a choice, one leading towards light, the other to darkness. Perhaps the ‘mirror’ held up to his generation, to which Richardson’s eulogy referred, was most confrontational in Warhol’s last works, especially Repent and Sin No More!.



Richardson, John. 1992. ‘Eulogy for Andy Warhol’, in Andy Warhol: Heaven and Hell Are Just One Breath Away! Late Paintings and Related Works, 1984–1986 (New York: Rizzoli), p. 140

Sliwka, Jennifer. 2017. ‘Painting the Sacred’, in Monochrome: Painting in Black a White by Lelia Packer and Jennifer Sliwka (London: National Gallery), p. 27

See full exhibition for Hosea 4

Hosea 4

Revised Standard Version

4Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel;

for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.

There is no faithfulness or kindness,

and no knowledge of God in the land;

2there is swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery;

they break all bounds and murder follows murder.

3Therefore the land mourns,

and all who dwell in it languish,

and also the beasts of the field,

and the birds of the air;

and even the fish of the sea are taken away.

4Yet let no one contend,

and let none accuse,

for with you is my contention, O priest.

5You shall stumble by day,

the prophet also shall stumble with you by night;

and I will destroy your mother.

6My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;

because you have rejected knowledge,

I reject you from being a priest to me.

And since you have forgotten the law of your God,

I also will forget your children.

7The more they increased,

the more they sinned against me;

I will change their glory into shame.

8They feed on the sin of my people;

they are greedy for their iniquity.

9And it shall be like people, like priest;

I will punish them for their ways,

and requite them for their deeds.

10They shall eat, but not be satisfied;

they shall play the harlot, but not multiply;

because they have forsaken the Lord

to cherish harlotry.

11Wine and new wine

take away the understanding.

12My people inquire of a thing of wood,

and their staff gives them oracles.

For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray,

and they have left their God to play the harlot.

13They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains,

and make offerings upon the hills,

under oak, poplar, and terebinth,

because their shade is good.

Therefore your daughters play the harlot,

and your brides commit adultery.

14I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot,

nor your brides when they commit adultery;

for the men themselves go aside with harlots,

and sacrifice with cult prostitutes,

and a people without understanding shall come to ruin.

15Though you play the harlot, O Israel,

let not Judah become guilty.

Enter not into Gilgal,

nor go up to Beth-aʹven,

and swear not, “As the Lord lives.”

16Like a stubborn heifer,

Israel is stubborn;

can the Lord now feed them

like a lamb in a broad pasture?

17Eʹphraim is joined to idols,

let him alone.

18A band of drunkards, they give themselves to harlotry;

they love shame more than their glory.

19A wind has wrapped them in its wings,

and they shall be ashamed because of their altars.