Andy Warhol
Biography of Pop-Art Silkscreen Painter Andrew Warhola.
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Marilyn (1967) Screenprint. An iconic
example of Andy Warhol's Pop Art
of the sixties.
For other works similar to those
produced by Andy Warhol, see:
Greatest 20th-Century Paintings.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

Contents

Biography
Most Expensive Paintings by Andy Warhol
Early Life
Pop Art
Films
Shot By Valerie Solanas
Making Money Rather Than Art
Reputation and Legacy
Famous Paintings and Prints
Collections

NOTE: For analysis of works by Pop-art painters like Andy Warhol,
please see: Analysis of Modern Paintings (1800-2000).

See also: Top Contemporary Artists 2015.


POSTERS OF WARHOL
Paintings by Andy Warhol
are widely available online
in the form of poster art.


Campbells Soup Can (1962)
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York

ART PERIODS & STYLES
For profiles of art schools, see:
Modern Art Movements
Contemporary Art Movements


Silver Car Crash (1963)
Sold at Christie's New York in 2013
for $105 million.


Green Car Crash (1963)
In 2007, this silkscreen print on linen
was sold at Christie's in New York for
$71.7 million.

HIGHEST PRICED ART
For a list of the highest prices, see:
Top 10 Most Expensive Paintings and
Top 20 Most Expensive Paintings.

Biography

Andy Warhol, the American painter, printmaker, illustrator, sculptor and film-maker, was one of the most famous yet controversial modern artists of the later 20th century. Bold, inventive, challenging and highly ambitious, Warhol became the acknowledged leader of the Pop Art movement of the 1960s and 70s, who was responsible for bringing 'popular' everyday culture into museums. He played a key role in getting popular graphics and other commercial imagery (of items like soup cans, Coca Cola bottles) accepted as fine art. Recognized by the late 60s as the leader of avant-garde art in America - with interests in painting, printmaking, video art, film-making, sculpture, assemblage and conceptual art - Warhol used modern creative methods like silkscreen printing, to produce iconic portraits of celebrities like Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. He turned stars into objects of modern art and in the process turned himself, the artist, into a star. This gave him access to a number of exclusive social circles featuring intellectuals, media moguls, Hollywood film stars and other wealthy patrons. He also used modern methods of production, employing a variety of assistants in his New York workshop, known as the "Factory". Since his premature death in 1987, Warhol has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions around the world, as well as a documentary films, books and articles. In recent years, Warhol's art - along with works by the surrealist Francis Bacon - have become the most sought after examples of early postmodernist art. The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is devoted to his work.

Most Expensive Paintings by Andy Warhol Sold at Auction

Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) (1963)
Fetched $105.4 million at Sotheby's New York, in 2013.

Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) (1963)
Sold at Christie's New York in 2007 for $71.7 million.

Men in Her Life (1962)
Sold for $63.4 million at Phillips de Pury & Co, New York, in 2010.

Race Riot (1964) by Andy Warhol
Hammered down for $62.8 million at Christie's New York in 2014.

200 One Dollar Bills (1962)
Sold in 2009 at Sotheby's New York for $43.8 million.

White Marilyn (1962)
Fetched $41 million at Christie's New York in 2014.

Four Marilyns (1962)
Sold in 2013 at Phillips de Pury & Co, New York, for $38.2 million.

Double Elvis (Ferus Type)
Fetched $37 million at Sotheby's New York in 2012.

Coca Cola (Large Coca Cola)
Fetched $35.3 million at Sotheby's New York in 2010.

Six Self Portraits (1986)
Sold at Sotheby's New York in 2014 for $26.7 million.

PRINTMAKING
For more about types of
fine art printing, used by
artists like Andy Warhol
including engraving, etching,
lithographic and silkscreen
methods, see:
Printmaking: History, Types.

MODERN PORTRAIT ART
See: Portrait Artists: 20th Century.

WORLDS TOP ARTISTS
Best Artists of All Time.
For the greatest portraitists
see: Best Portrait Artists.

 

Early Life

Born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh to Czech immigrant Byzantine Catholic parents. His father later died in an accident when Warhol was only 13. In his youth, Warhol was something of a sickly child: he was not popular at school and as a result developed a strong attachment to his mother, spending long periods in bed, drawing pictures and collecting photos of movie stars. After high school, he studied painting and design at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh (1945-49), and then settled in New York where he began an extremely successful career as a commercial artist. His specialty was advertisements for I. Miller shoes, with which he twice won the Art Director's Club Medal (1952, 1957). He was also hired by RCA Records to design album covers and other promotional materials. By 1956, he was earning a six-figure annual salary. Meantime, he also produced and exhibited several examples of magazine and book illustration (eg. for Truman Capote's writings, shown at the Hugo Gallery in New York) and other sketches, which failed to attract any critical interest, although his works were included in a 1956 group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

 

Pop Art

In 1960, Warhol began creating paintings based on mass-produced images such as newspaper advertisements and (like similar works by the Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein) comic-strip characters. Typically, they involved repetition of banal objects including soup cans, soda bottles and dollar bills - not unlike the concept behind Marcel Duchamp's "readymades". Other subjects included silkscreen portraits (typically derived from press photographs) of famous people including film stars, pop stars and political figures. Examples include: Elvis Presley, Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Ingrid Bergman, Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali and Mao. Warhol's paintings were shown for the first time in 1962, at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, then in autumn of the same year at a one-man exhibition at Eleanor Ward's Stable Gallery in New York. The latter event was a sensational success, and turned Warhol into the biggest star of the Pop Art movement. The following year he switched from painting by hand to the silkscreen process, taking care to exploit the natural imperfections in the process of repetition, to give each work an appearance of originality. Based at his New York studio, known as The Factory, where he employed a rising number of assistants, he produced a range of silkscreen paintings of flowers, animals, and disasters (suicides, car accidents and so on), as well as his familiar pop-art portraits and several sculptures of boxes of Brillo soap pads, Heinz ketchup and Campbell's tomato juice.

According to Warhol, his works were a commentary on the consumerist, convenience lifestyle of modern America. Warhol cited Coca-Cola as an example. Everyone drinks Coca-Cola, he said, and no amount of money can buy you a better coke than anyone else has. All the cokes are the same and they're all good. Just like my paintings. Slightly more controversial was Warhol's use of assistants (including Gerard Malanga, Freddie Herko, Ondine, Billy Name, Mary Woronov, Ronald Tavel, and Brigid Berlin) to mass-produce his works.

In addition to Warhol, leading painters and sculptors of the Pop Art movement included: Ed Ruscha (b.1937), Roy Lichtenstein, Jim Dine (b.1935), Robert Indiana (b.1935), Alex Katz (b.1927), Claes Oldenburg (b.1929), James Rosenquist (b.1933), Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004) and David Hockney (b.1937).

 

Films

In 1965, having established an international reputation with his avant-garde pop art, Warhol announced his retirement as a painter to concentrate on film-making, video art, and managing the rock band The Velvet Underground. His first films were silent and utterly boring: Sleep (1963) shows a man sleeping for 6 hours; Empire (1964) depicts the Empire State Building from one angle for 8 hours; the film Eat (1965) features a man eating a mushroom for 45 minutes. Later films showed explicit physical encounters to boost viewability: these included, My Hustler (1965), Chelsea Girls (1966), Flesh (1968) and Trash (1970). In total, during the period 1963-8, Warhol made more than 60 films, most of which were taken out of circulation during the early 70s. Now restored by the Whitney Museum of American Art, they are occasionally screened at film festivals and museum events. Warhol is also rated as one of the top exponents of fine art photography. For another avant-garde video artists, see: Nam June Paik (1932-2006). For other famous camera artists, see: Greatest Photographers (c.1880-present).

Shot By Valerie Solanas

Then in June 1968, Warhol was shot and seriously wounded by Valerie Solanas, one of his hangers-on who had a minor role in one of his films. She was arrested the next day, explaining: 'He had too much control over my life'. Only modest coverage was devoted to the shooting, due to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy two days later. As it was, Warhol barely survived the assault and went on to struggle with the injuries for the rest of his life. After this, he spent less time at The Factory and more time partying with the rich and famous, who saw him as a quiet guy - an observer not an actor. If he didn't feel like going to an event, he sent a lookalike, to represent him.

Making Money Rather Than Art

In the early 1970s, in addition to designing the cover art for the Rolling Stones album Sticky Fingers (1971), he began painting again. This time he focused on portrait art, using a gestural style to produce monumental portraits of Mao Tse-tung, and others. In general, this later work is considered to be his least original. Indeed, from now on - having made his reputation - Warhol devoted the next 16 years to making money rather than art. Thus throughout the 1970s and early 80s his notoriety earned him huge fees for portraits of wealthy patrons, who included John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Diana Ross, Brigitte Bardot, Liza Minnelli, Michael Jackson, the Shah of Iran, his wife Empress Farah Pahlavi, and his sister Princess Ashraf Pahlavi. By 1986, the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue was advertising portrait sittings with Andy Warhol for $35,000. At his death in February 1987, from complications following routine gall-bladder surgery, he left an estate estimated at $100 million, making him one of the most financially successful of all 20th century painters. Most of the money was bequeathed to the Andy Warhol Foundation. This now runs The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a museum of modern art at Medzilaborce, his parents' former home in Slovakia.

Reputation and Legacy

Warhol's importance as one of the leading postmodernist artists and the first truly versatile exponent of postmodernism cannot be denied. He was the first to recognize the artistic value of mass-marketed images beamed into people's homes by TV, and employed them (1) to parody the consumer society of the 1960s (making the everyday, epic, with his Campbell's soup can paintings and Brillo sculptures); (2) to satisfy society's voyeuristic tendencies (disaster paintings); and (3) to create iconic portraits of popular celebrities. His contribution to the development of contemporary art - made possible by his experience as a commercial artist - lies in his mastery of industrial silkscreen techniques, and his use of consumerist graphics and other popular imagery, from which he created a wide range of unusual, if somewhat repetitive, fine art. What's more, in his relentless quest for fame and fortune, Warhol has been a perfect role model for younger contemporary artists such as Jeff Koons (b.1955) and Damien Hirst (b.1965), in their attempts to establish themselves on a level with other multi-millionaire businessmen. Warhol remains an artist of his time, a member of an advanced consumer society for whom the mass-produced image - be it reproduced on the front page of a newspaper or the front of a soda bottle - was a powerful and defining element of their world. Turning such images into art was as natural for Warhol, as carving David out of a block of marble was for Michelangelo.

According to Charles Saatchi, the leading British collector of contemporary art, "art books will be brutal about the late 20th-century. Every painter other than Jackson Pollock (1912-56) and Andy Warhol (1928-87)... will be a footnote." For more about the former, see: Jackson Pollock's paintings (c.1940-56).

Note: For biographies of other leading artists from the United States, please see: American Art.

Famous Paintings & Prints

Other famous works of art by Andy Warhol, aside from those already mentioned, include: Campbells Soup Can (1962, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York); Triple Elvis (1962, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts); Liz No 2 (1962, private collection); Marilyn Diptych (1962, Tate Modern, London); Green Disaster Ten Times (1963, Museum of Modern Art Frankfurt); Four Mona Lisas (1963, Museum of Modern Art, New York); Green Disaster (1963, Darmstadt Landesmuseum); Suicide (1963, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York); Brillo (1964, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York); Electric Chair (1964, Tate Modern, London); Jacqueline Kennedy No.3 (1965, Hayward Gallery, London); Self-Portrait (1967, Tate Modern, London); and Mao (1973, Art Institute of Chicago).

For other important contemporary photographers, see: Diane Arbus (1923-1971), Annie Leibovitz (b.1949), Nan Goldin (b.1953), Cindy Sherman (b.1954), Nadav Kander (b.1961).

Collections

Works by Andy Warhol can be seen in the best art museums on both sides of the Atlantic, including Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New York, The Tate Modern, London and The Saatchi Gallery, London.

 

• For information about contemporary artists, see: Visual Arts Encyclopedia.
• For biographies of other great artists, see: Famous Painters.


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