Andy Warhol is one of the most influential artists of all time. He dabbled in as many forms of media, hosting television shows and publishing books, all on top of being a painter. Though many have seen his art works, like the Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn Monroe paintings, few know anything about the artist behind the painting. As Warhol made a large impact on the world, it’s important to know the history behind one of the world’s most influential artists.
August 6, 1928, in a two room apartment in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Andy Warhola was born to Slovakian immigrants, Andrej and Julia Warhola, and was the youngest of three boys. He would attend Holmes School for his elementary years, however he would miss several months of school at his young age. Andy suffered from a neurological disorder known as Sydenham Chorea, which is characterized by involuntary movements. While being bed ridden and missing months of school with said disease, his mom taught him to paint, which quickly became his favorite pastime. He would also read comics, Hollywood magazines, and play with paper cutouts. He would continue to love art and would take free Tam O’Shatner art classes at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
He continued to show a passion for art through his childhood and teenage years. His parents saw this passion, so they bought Andy his first camera when he was nine years old. He would attend Schenley High School as of 1942 at the age of 12. Later that same year, Andy’s father died, and he was so upset that he didn’t go to the funeral and hid under his bed during the wake. However, his father noticed the talent his son possessed and started saving money for Andy to go to college. Andy would go on to attend Carnegie Mellon University from 1945-1949.
After his graduation from Carnegie Mellon, Andy would move to New York City and would work as a commercial artist. Around this time is when he dropped the a at the end of his last name, Warhola, to now be Warhol. His first illustration was in a 1949 issue of Glamour Magazine, and would become an award winning illustrator. He worked for many prestigious companies, such as Vogue, Tiffany and Co., and Columbia Records. In the late 1950’s he decided to dedicate more of his time to painting, and would debut his pop art in 1961. In 1962, he debuted what would be his most popular paintings, Campbell’s Soup Cans, which would bring Andy to the national spotlight. He had many other famous paintings, ones that depicted Coca-Cola bottles, vacuum cleaners, and hamburgers. He would also do celebrity portraits, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger, and, most famously, Marilyn Monroe.
As Andy and his portraits started to get more popular, some celebrities and people of the very high class would offer him money to paint a portrait of them. Andy’s paintings, including some of these portraits, were starting to get a large increase in popularity and price. Eventually, one of his paintings titled “Eight Elvises”, which depicted Elvis Presley, sold for 100 million dollars in 2008. The painting is one of the most expensive to ever be sold and is deemed as Andy Warhol’s most valuable painting. By 1964, Andy had opened his own art studio, The Factory, which was a large silver warehouse. The Factory quickly became one of New York City’s premier hotspots. Four years later, in 1968, Andy was shot by Valerie Solanas, a radical feminist who worked with Andy on a film. She was upset he didn’t use a script she wrote. Andy would spend weeks in the hospital, and because of the injuries he sustained, he had to wear a medical corset for the rest of his life.
By 1970, Andy had continued to expand his art and media empire, continuing to share his creative thoughts with the world. He would go on to publish some books, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) and Exposures to name a few. He would also experiment with videos and would produce 60 films, such as Sleep, poet John Giorno sleeping for six hours. He would also do some sculptures and photography during this time. In the 1980s, Andy would move into television, and would end up hosting two shows, Andy Warhol’s TV and Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes on MTV.
Later in his life, Warhol suffered from issues with his gallbladder, and because of these issues, on February 20, 1987, he was admitted to New York Hospital. He later had his gallbladder successfully removed and seemed to be recovering well. However, that wasn’t the case, as days later he suffered some complications due to the procedure, putting him in cardiac arrest. He died on February 22, 1987 at the age of 58. A memorial was held for him at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, thousands of people would attend, and is buried next to his mother and father at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery.
The effects Andy Warhol had on pop culture and society were unmatched, as he stood out from the crowd and followed his dreams and rejected society’s norms, even mocking them in the process. As his pop art of commercial goods was mocking America and its consumerism. However it may seem, it’s undeniable that his art was eye-catching, as it draws attention to itself with its bright, flashy colors and designs. As Andy’s popularization of pop art was crucial to not only pop art in itself, but art all together, as it showed another side of art that was yet to be expressed at that time. As his art reflected society, as stated before, mocking us for our consumerism and idolizing ways of money and celebrities. Nonetheless, Andy Warhol’s influence on art and society is second to none, as the effects present because of Warhol will never be forgotten, and could quite possibly never be repeated by another.
Photo Credit: news.artnet.com