Andy Warhol —
Andy Warhol may be most famous for his paintings Coca Cola bottles and Campbell’s soup cans but throughout his career he produced an enormous body of art - including avant-garde films, photographs and religious-themed paintings. He was profoundly influential not only in art, but also in entertainment, fashion, graphic design and marketing. In fact, this pop icon may be the single most important and prolific American artist of the second half of the 20th century.
Born August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh to devout, working-class immigrants from Slovakia, Andrew Warhola grew up in a Pennsylvania industrial town during the Great Depression. Warhol was often ill as a child - a sickly femme kid with bad skin and big ambitions. His complicated relationship with the Church was essential to his art – and influenced his final series based on The Last Supper.
Warhol studied art at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon) and moved to New York City after graduating in 1949 to find work as a commercial artist. Before long, he was a successful illustrator specializing in fashion advertising and product packaging. Women’s shoes were his specialty. His career soared, and he became recognizable for his trademark blonde wig and plastic-framed eyeglasses. Pop, for him, was a way of life and his aesthetic sense developed from American newspapers, advertising, product design, and Hollywood fanzines.
In the early 1960s, Warhol gained notice for his Campbell’s Soup series— 32 paintings for the 32 varieties then available.
He went on to produce a collection of paintings that focused on other mass-produced commercial goods such as Coke bottles, Brillo cartons, Schlitz beer cans, S&H Green Stamps and other everyday items. His method was to take things that were common and banal — and then magnify and multiply them to the point of absurdity. He painted mundane objects on an epic scale. He covered colossal canvases with rows of uniform, mass-produced items.His works consistently explored the connection between pop culture and artistic expression.
Warhol’s New York studio, The Factory, became a well-known gathering place for Bohemian intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, and Hollywood celebrities. The Factory was a beehive for the creative and the depraved. Warhol drew from a fascination with glamorous women and painted portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jacqueline Kennedy, who have been compared to Madonnas.
At the same time, Warhol was deeply influenced by the religious art he saw — gold-painted icons of saints, Crucifixions, Last Judgments — in the Byzantine Catholic church he religiously attended, and by the ornamental embroideries and drawings made by his mother at home.
Though best known for his silkscreens and paintings, Warhol became a passionate photographer later in his life. He carried a camera with him at all times, capturing everything from personal friends to iconic celebrities. His photographs ranged from black and white 35 mm portraits to Polaroid shots.
Warhol’s works include some of the most expensive paintings ever sold. A 1964 self-portrait fetched $38.4 million. A canvas from the same year titled Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) depicting a grisly accident went for $105 million His silkscreens have a large range price, but even on the low end, they are typically at least $10,000 or more at auction.
Warhol died unexpectedly on Feb. 22, 1987 at age 58 in a Manhattan hospital following gallbladder surgery. His funeral took place at his childhood church in Pittsburgh, followed by a memorial mass attended by 3,000 people at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
The Andy Warhol Foundation, which supports the creation and presentation of contemporary visual art, was founded that same year in accordance with the artist’s will. Today, the Andy Warhol Museum in his native Pittsburgh, holds an extensive permanent collection of art and archives, and is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to a single artist.