warhol 001-ingrid-bergman at zebra one gallery
Andy Warhol

Who Was Andy Warhol?

Andy Warhol was a successful magazine and ad illustrator who became the leading artist of the 1960s Pop art movement. He ventured into a wide variety of mediums which included printing, performance, filmmaking, video installations and writing ( through Interview Magazine) the artist blurred the lines between fine art and mainstream aesthetics.

Warhol died on February 22, 1987, in New York City.

Early Life

Born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928, in the neighborhood of Oakland in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Warhol's parents were Slovakian immigrants. His father, Andrej Warhola, was a construction worker, while his mother, Julia Warhola, was an embroiderer. They were devout Byzantine Catholics who attended mass regularly and maintained much of their Slovakian culture and heritage while living in one of Pittsburgh's Eastern European ethnic enclaves.

At the age of eight, Warhol contracted Chorea—also known as St. Vitus's Dance — a rare and sometimes fatal disease of the nervous system that left him bedridden for several months. It was during these months, while Warhol was sick in bed, that his mother, herself a skillful artist, gave him his first drawing lessons. Drawing soon became Warhol's favorite childhood pastime. He was also an avid fan of movies, and when his mother bought him a camera at the age of nine, he took up photography as well, developing film in a makeshift darkroom he set up in their basement.

Pop Art

When he graduated from college with his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1949, Warhol moved to New York City to pursue a career as a commercial artist. It was also at this time that he dropped the "a" at the end of his last name to become Andy Warhol. He landed a job with Glamour magazine in September, and went on to become one of the most successful commercial artists of the 1950s. He won frequent awards for his uniquely whimsical style, using his own blotted line technique and rubber stamps to create his drawings.

In the late 1950s, Warhol began devoting more 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 now-iconic paintings of Campbell's soup cans. These small canvas works of everyday consumer products created a major stir in the art world, bringing both Warhol and pop art into the national spotlight for the first time.

British artist Richard Hamilton described pop art as "popular, transient, expendable, low cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, big business." As Warhol himself put it, "Once you 'got' pop, you could never see a sign the same way again. And once you thought pop, you could never see America the same way again."

Warhol's other famous pop paintings depicted Coca-cola bottles, vacuum cleaners and hamburgers. 

Portraits

He also painted celebrity portraits in vivid and garish colors; his most famous subjects include Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger and Mao Tse-tung. As these portraits gained fame and notoriety, Warhol began to receive hundreds of commissions for portraits from socialites and celebrities. His portrait of "Eight Elvises" eventually resold for $100 million in 2008, making it one of the most valuable paintings in world history.