Andy Warhol (Aug 06, 1928 – Feb 22, 1987) was an American artist. Once a successful commercial artist and at home in the advertisement scene of the 50s, he became a leading figure in Pop Art. His work encompassed many forms of media and includes some of the most expensive paintings ever sold.
Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, PA as the fourth child of the Slovakian immigrants Andrew and Julia Warhola. Two of Warhol’s three older brothers were born in Slovakia and one of them died there as an infant. His father worked in a coal mine. The family was of Byzantine Catholic faith.
Warhol was often bedridden as a child. That and later that he was gay made him an outcast at school. Confined to bed he drew, listened to the radio and collected pictures of movie stars, which he put up around his bed. This period influenced Warhol’s development of skills, preferences and personality profoundly.
After first contemplating a career in art education, he finally enrolled in the Carnegie Institute of Technology to become a commercial illustrator. In post-war America advertisement would become a fast growing sector. In 1949 he earned his BA. Due to his background in advertisement he was acquainted with silk screen and other ways of printmaking prior to entering the field of fine arts.
In 1962 Warhol was part of the exhibition New Paintings of Common Objects that took place at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angles. Pop art as an art movement started out in the 50s in Great Britain. The 1962 exhibition was the very first pop art exhibition on American soil though. A little later that year Warhol had his first solo exhibition in New York. It included works like the Marilyn Diptych, 100 Soup Cans, 100 Coke Bottles and 100 Dollar Bills.
He founded his studio, The Factory, where he gathered around him a wide range of artists, writers, musicians and underground celebrities. From his career in advertisement he was used to team work and so he collaborated with many of The Factory frequents in his works that now also comprised of movies and books.
Warhol wrote in his book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (1975): “Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art.” It was probably his background in advertisement that made him convinced that he had to find a niche and adopt it to be successful. Fellow pop art artist Roy Lichtenstein was associated with cartoons, Jasper Johns with typography. A gallerist friend told Warhol to paint what he loved the most. So, he, who grew up with the iconography of the Byzantine church, who fell in love with Hollywood as a child sick in bed, and who had worked to create and further brands, chose modern American icons for his subject matter.
Once he had established a signature subject matter, he went on to create a signature style. Even before going into fine arts he had worked with silk-screening. Now, he started to eliminate the hand-making from the artistic process up to the point there he had several assistants producing his silk-screen multiples following his orders. His became a style fitting the time – artistically and personally affectless, commercial and superficial.
Warhol survived an assassination attempt in 1968 only merely. It put an end to the unconstrained life at The Factory. And while Warhol was before that day only questioning if everything around him was only a TV show as nothing really touched him, he was after this attempted murder convinced that the whole life was nothing but theatre.
Andy Warhol died in his sleep of post-operative cardiac arrhythmia after he had been making good recovery from a routine gallbladder surgery. He is buried in Pittsburgh next to his parents. Some of his last work includes The Last Supper cycle. Some call his largest series “arguably his greatest”, while others bash it as “wishy-washy religious” and “spiritless”. He was the Pope of Pop, disputed to the end.