New York City
The Pop artist, filmmaker and iconic celebrity Andy Warhol helped to revolutionize American art in the 1960s, as Pop Art and other genres replaced Abstract Expressionism as the dominant genre. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol began creating prints and paintings of celebrities and everyday objects and became hugely famous and successful. Born in 1928 in Pittsburgh, the youngest of three sons of immigrants from what is now Slovakia, Andrew Warhola was educated in the local public schools. He learned to draw while confined to bed in 1936 recovering from a neurological disorder known as St. Vitus’ Dance. He began attending Saturday art classes at the Carnegie Museum in 1937. After high school graduation in 1945, Warhola attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology (Now Carnegie-Mellon University), majoring in pictorial design. While in school he experimented with “blotted line” drawings, in which he blotted an ink drawing onto another sheet of paper, creating a look he would use in his later commercial art. After graduation in 1949 Warhola and a friend went to New York City, where he became a successful artist, signing his works “Andy Warhol.” He created art for advertisements and promotional items for Tiffany’s, Bonwit Teller and other stores, Columbia Records, fashion magazines, the I. Miller shoe company and The New York Times, winning several professional awards during the 1950s. He also published books with his illustrations, some with text in his mother’s handwriting, who had joined him in New York in 1952 and lived with him until about 1971. His first individual gallery exhibition was in 1952 and he first participated in a group show in 1953. His success allowed him to purchase a Manhattan townhouse in 1960. He began painting works with images appropriated from consumer goods and the comics in 1961, including his first “Campbell’s Soup Can” paintings. The following year Warhol painted more objects, including Coca-Cola bottles, U.S. currency and stamps, and began painting celebrity portraits, including those of Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962), Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) and Elvis Presley (1935-1977). He also began painting his “Disaster” pictures, depictions of gory car crashes, electric chairs and the like. Warhol explored various printmaking techniques in 1962, published the photoengraving “Cooking Pot” (F/S II.1) and began using the silkscreen and photo-silkscreen processes to create multiple copies of an image. The exhibition of his series of thirty-two soup can paintings the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles in the summer of 1962, followed by an exhibition of paintings and prints at New York’s Stable Gallery that fall, brought him celebrity status. Warhol began experimental filmmaking in 1963. Among his some 600 films are about 500 four-minute portraits called “Screen Tests” and others that became underground classics. He also made some 2,500 videos. He opened a studio called the “Factory” in 1964; its interior was covered in aluminum foil by his associate Billy Name (b. 1940), where he and his assistants made sculptures in the form of enlarged consumer-product boxes, most famously his “Brillo Boxes.” It also served as a location for film production, printmaking, a rehearsal space for the rock bank “The Velvet Underground,” and a gathering spot for his friends. Warhol contributed a color lithograph depicting Marilyn Monroe’s lips to Walasse Ting’s (1929-2010) 1964 book 1¢ Life, in which 62 color lithographs illustrated 61 poems by Ting. Warhol’s controversial mural depicting wanted criminals for the façade of the New York State Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, “Thirteen Most Wanted Men,” was painted over before the Fair opened. Warhol would use the images in later works. He moved the Factory to a new Manhattan location in early 1968. Later that year a woman who had appeared in one of his film came to the Factory and shot Warhol in the chest. He recovered after surgery and a long hospital stay. While recovering he painted a series of portraits of Happy Rockefeller (b. 1926), the wife of Nelson Rockefeller (1908-1979), the Governor of New York. Warhol continued painting portraits of celebrities and socialites during the 1970s and 1980s while producing several series of paintings and prints on a variety of subjects. He started “Interview Magazine” in 1969, which is still in publication. He designed a series of record covers, produced television programs and music videos, tried modeling and was an active member of the international “Jet Set.” In the 1980s Warhol created paintings in collaboration with the younger American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) and the Italian painter Francesco Clemente (b. 1952). Attending the 1987 exhibition in Milan of his last series of paintings, “The Last Supper,” Warhol complained of pains in his side, and eventually consented to gall bladder surgery, which led to complications causing his death on February 22, 1987. (TNB 4/2014) Selected bibliography: Bastian, Heiner, ed. Andy Warhol: Retrospective. Exhibition catalog. London; Tate Publications; Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2002. Feldman, Frayda, Jörg Schellmann and Claudia Defendi. Andy Warhol Prints: a Catalogue Raisonné, 1962-1987. 4th ed. New York: Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and Munich: Edition Schellman, 2003. McShine, Kynaston, ed. Andy Warhol—A Retrospective. Exhibition catalog. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1989.
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.