Born on 6 August 1928 as Andrew Warhola, Andy Warhol’s artistic talent was recognised from an early age. With funds put aside by his late father, from 1945 to 1949 he studied pictorial design at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh.
On completion of his education he moved to New York and became an illustrator for such magazines as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, producing advertisements and window displays. During the 1950s he was one of New York’s most successful commercial illustrators. Meanwhile Warhol had also begun to paint and in 1952 he had his first solo exhibition at New York’s Hugo Gallery.
Influenced by meeting Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, Warhol worked increasingly to establish himself as a serious painter. His first Pop Art paintings, from 1960, use cartoon and advertising imagery and he parodied the self-conscious brushwork of the Abstract Expressionists. Soon, though, he moved to a deadpan method of execution. He appropriated subjects from popular culture, newspapers and consumer products, adopting an inexpressive, pared-down style that challenged notions of what art is.
Exhibiting paintings of rows of Campbell’s soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles in 1962, Warhol achieved the notoriety he sought. Admiring the leveling effects of industrialisation, he stated: ‘I think everybody should be a machine. I think everybody should be like everybody. That seems to be what is happening now.’ In 1962
Warhol founded the Factory, where he could depict massed ranks of goods using mass-production screen printing. In this art studio, assistants carried out much of the work under his supervision, distancing him further from the traditional artist’s role.
From 1963 Warhol also began experimenting with film, making over 60 films and another 500 or so short black-and-white portrait clips of visitors to the Factory.
However after an attempt on his life in June 1968, when he was shot and seriouslyinjured by Valerie Solanis of the Society for Cutting Up Men (SCUM), Warholhanded over film making for the Factory collective to his assistant director.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Warhol produced portrait prints of Hollywood personalitiesand rock stars, fashion designers, artists and political leaders, among them Brigitte Bardot, Man Ray and Mick Jagger. Time magazine art critic Robert Hughes described him as ‘a conduit for a sort of collective American state of mind in which celebrity – the famous image of a person, the famous brand name – had completely replaced both sacredness and solidity’. Embracing his ever growing reputation, Warhol exhibited internationally, as well as co-founding a magazine and later in the 1980s running two televisions shows.
Warhol died in New York on 22 February 1987 and was buried in Pittsburgh. A memorial mass held at St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, was attended by more than 2,000 people. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, formed in accordance with his wishes in 1987 using proceeds from his estate, continues to ‘foster innovative artistic expression and the creative process’.