The first superstar of American art, Andy Warhol was obsessed with fame, glamour, and money. He is best known for his images of stars and celebrities and for his reproductions of symbols of the American society.
Andrew Warholas (he later dropped the a) birth date is uncertain, Andy said himself that his birth certificate had been forged and June 6, 1928 became the date taken as his birthday. Others say he was born December 6, 1930 and then others say it was August 6, 1928. Andy was very mysterious about his private life and was said to be in another world most of the time.
He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His parents, Ondrej and Julia Warhola were working-class immigrants from Eastern Europe, his father worked in the coal mines. Andy was the second of three sons. He showed an early talent for art, and from the age of nine, he took drawing classes. When Andy was fourteen, his father died from drinking poisoned water. From that day on Julia Warhola and her boys would be part of a struggle with poverty.
In 1945, Warhol left school, and went to study art and graphic design at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and within a year he moved to New York, to expand his career.
Soon after his move Andy found work as a magazine illustrator, producing shoe designs for Glamour (the womens fashion magazine) He produced designs for such movie stars as, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Mae West, and Julie Andrews. In the credit line the last a was dropped from Warhols last name, perhaps as a miss print, but Andy decided to keep this spelling.
By 1951, Warhol was a successful commercial illustrator working for magazines, newspapers, and television. One of his jobs was to design the weather map for NBCs morning news. In 1952 Warhol held his first exhibit, it was not a financial success, but it enhanced Warhols reputation as a commercial artist. But his spare time was now taken up with pop art, inspired by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, two young pop artist, Warhol had come across in 1958. He began to paint, draw and print everyday objects such as, dollar bills, soup cans, postage stamps, comic strips, and soda bottles. According to Warhol, these were some of the consumer products on which America is built.
When Warhol showed his work to New York art dealers, they said it was too similar to the work of other artists. Then in 1962, Warhol was still searching for a style that would be his and his alone, when his assistant Nathan Gluck, suggested that Warhol try silk screen-printing. This process allowed Warhol to choose an image, reproduce it mechanically, and repeat it as many times as he wanted. It was the breakthrough Warhol had been waiting for, at last he had found his own unique artistic style.
Marilyn Monroes death (August 4, 1962) inspired Warhol to create a series of paintings and he also produced similar pictures of other famous people such as, Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty, Elizabeth Taylor, and himself.
Warhol exhibited his new work first at the Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, then at The Stable Gallery, New York, in November 1962. The prints caused a sensation in the art world. In 1963, Warhol widened his subject matter to include images taken from newspapers. He was not only interested in the glamorous world of the celebrity, but also the harsh reality of modern life. He also insisted that his works were not social comments, and that they had no meaning. Also in 1963, Warhol bought an abandoned hat factory to use as a studio. He called it, The Factory emphasizing the mechanical nature of his work.
The silk screen method and Warhols increasing wealth allowed him to employ assistants. This gave him time to seek new artistic outlets. He made some experimental movies, wrote a novel entitled a, and staged his own play pork. He also managed a rock band, The Velvet Underground, and published a magazine, Andy Warhols Interview. By the late 1960s, Warhol was famous, and he had a reputation for partying. The factory attracted a mix of hang-on and thrill-seekers. On June 3, 1968 one of these thrill-seekers Valerie Solanas, shot the artist three times, seriously wounding him. The incident affected Warhols artistic output, he gave up working altogether from 1969 to 1971.
The factory was to change after this, the casual do-as-you-please approach was replaced with a more business like structure. In the 1970s Warhol moved away from the social misfits of The Factory to Manhattan. He then tried to rekindle his creative reputation with a series of silk screen prints of Chinese leader, Mao Tse-Tung.
Andy warhols life came to an end, one day in February 1987, when he was admitted to New York Hospital for a Gall Bladder operation. As a result of unexpected complications, he died February 22, 1987 at the age of 58.
Warhol was seen to the public and the media as strange many people loved his art and others thought it was bold-faced fraud. I like his art because of its strange way, most of it is very simple, but it is so real. I think Andy Warhol himself is a very strange man, as well as his art. He seemed to enjoy his life of mystery and I believe that he wanted the world to perceive him as strange and weird and that is why he painted what he did.
- Honnef, Klaus. “Andy Warhol Benedikt Taschen Verlag GmbH Hohenzollerring. (1993)
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