August 6th 1928 - February 22nd 1987
“I'd prefer to remain a mystery. I never give my background, and, anyway, I make it all up different every time I'm asked.”
Andy Warhol was the most successful and highly paid commercial illustrator in New York even before he began to make art destined for galleries. Born in Pittsburgh, Pensylvania on August 6th, 1928, he was much like Lichtenstein heralded as the leading artist in the 1960’s pop art movement.
At the age of 8, Warhol contracted a rare and sometimes fatal disease of the nervous system that left him bedridden for several months. It was during these months that his mother, herself a skilful artist, gave Warhol his first drawing lessons. Soon drawing became Warhol’s favourite pastime, also an avid fan of movies at age 9 he took up photography after his mother gifted him a camera. Developing film in a makeshift darkroom he’d set up in the basement.
When he graduated college in 1949 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree he moved to New York City to pursue a career as a commercial artist. He landed a job with Glamour magazine and went on to become one of the most successful commercial artists of the 1950’s. He won awards for his uniquely whimsical style, using his own blotted line technique and rubber stamps to create his drawings.
In the late 1950’s, Warhol started to devote more of his time and attention to painting and in 1961, he debuted the concept of “pop art” – paintings that focused on mass-produced commercial goods. In 1962 he exhibited the iconic painting of Campbell’s soup cans. The small canvases of everyday consumer products created a major stir in the art world, bringing Warhol into the national spotlight for the first time.
Over time he started to paint celebrity portraits in vivid colours, his most famous subject being the memorable and iconic Marilyn Monroe. As his portraits began to gain fame and notoriety, Warhol received hundreds of commissions for portraits of socialites and celebrities.
In 1964, he opened his own art studio known simply as ‘The Factory’. It quickly became a cultural hotspot in New York City with lavish parties attended by the wealthy and celebrities. Lou Reed paid tribute to the hustlers and transvestites that he had met whilst at The Factory with his hit song “Walk on the Wild Side”.
Warhol clearly enjoyed his new found celebrity as he soon became a fixture at infamous New York City nightclubs, such as Studio 54 and Max’s Kansas City.
However, in 1968, Warhol’s booming career almost ended as he was shot by Valerie Solanas. She was an aspiring writer and radical feminist who had appeared in one of Warhol’s many films. Reportedly she was upset with him over his refusal to use a script that she had written. After the shooting, Solanas was arrested and plead guilty to the crime. Warhol spent weeks recovering in hospital, however, due to the injuries he sustained he had to wear a surgical corset for the rest of his life.
Throughout the 1970’s, Warhol continued to explore different forms of media, he published several books such as ‘The Philosophy of Andy Warhol ( From A to B and Back Again). He also experimented heavily with video art, producing over 60 films throughout his career.
On February 20th, 1987 , Warhol was admitted to New York Hospital to have his gallbladder removed. The surgery was successful and Warhol appeared to be recovering However just days later he suffered a complication that resulted in sudden cardiac arrests. He died on February 22nd, 1987 at the age of 58.