Sunday, 16 September 2012


“Everything popular is wrong.” - Oscar Wilde

Andy Warhol (August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987) was born in Pittsburg (né Andrej Varchola, Jr). His parents were working-class Rusyn emigrants from Mikó (now called Miková), located in today’s northeastern Slovakia, part of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Warhol’s father immigrated to the United States in 1914, and his mother joined him in 1921, after the death of Warhol’s grandparents. Their family name was anglicised to “Warhola”. Warhol’s father worked in a coal mine. Andy Warhol had two older brothers — Pavol (Paul), the oldest, was born in Slovakia; Ján was born in Pittsburgh. Pavol’s son, James Warhola, became a successful children’s book illustrator.

Andy Warhol showed his talent for art at a young age, so it was not difficult for him to choose a career in commercial art, studying pictorial design at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, which is presently Carnegie Mellon University. After graduating Warhol moved to New York City and worked as an illustrator for various popular magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and The New Yorker. In 1949, the pop icon shortened his name to Warhol after a credit in Glamour magazine mistakenly read “Drawings by Warhol.”

In 1952, Warhol had his first individual show with the exhibit “Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote”. His first group show was at The Museum of Modern Art in 1956. During the 1960s, Warhol truly made a name for himself, with iconic works such as “Campbell's Soup Cans”, “Disasters” and “Marilyns”. He also shot several 16mm films, including Chelsea Girls, Empire and Blow Job.

Warhol started publishing Interview magazine in the early 1970s and once again, returned to painting. These later works included “Maos”, “Skulls”, “Hammer and Sickles” and “Torsos and Shadows”. In the latter part of his career, Warhol devoted much of his time to rounding up new, rich patrons for portrait commissions. By the 1980s, Warhol was being criticised for becoming merely a “business artist”.

Warhol's publication, “POPism: The Warhol 60s”, and his exhibitions “Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century” and “Retrospectives and Reversal Series” kicked off his 1980s work. He appeared on TV screen with his self-created cable shows, “Andy Warhol’s TV” and “Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes”, for MTV. In the years leading to his death, Warhol's paintings included “The Last Suppers”, “Rorschachs” and “Ads”, which is considered to be his return to Pop.

Nearly 20 years before Warhol died, he was shot in his studio, which was known as the Factory. In 1968, Valerie Solanis, the founder and sole member of SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) shot and nearly killed the artist. Warhol died February 22, 1987 after a routine gall bladder surgery. 

In 1994, the Andy Warhol Museum opened in his hometown of Pittsburgh. Warhol combined his early experiences and influences into an art form that would be called American Pop Art. His canvases have become icons of twentieth century modern art and have been much imitated, to the extent of bathos (presuming they started higher than that – if you are not admirer of Warhol’s art). The painting illustrated above is in the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum für Gegenwart (Museum for Contemporary Art) in Berlin. Andy Warhol’s large “Mao” (1973) is one of the iconic trademarks of the museum.

No comments:

Post a Comment