Born in Pittsburgh to working-class immigrant parents, Warhol earned a degree in design at Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1949. His goal was to become a commercial artist, and within a year of arriving in New York City he had top assignments from Glamour magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Martini & Rossi, Columbia Records, I. Miller, and many others. His whimsical line drawings of cats, butterflies, and especially women’s shoes made him one of the most sought and highly paid illustrators in the city.
After working as an illustrator for only a few years, Warhol reinvented himself as a fine artist and after exhibiting his work in several galleries in the late 1950s, he began to receive recognition as an influential and controversial artist. He based his paintings on imagery he found in the American mass media: news photos, celebrity head shots, film stills, comics, logos, and advertisements. To convert his source images into paintings, Warhol made them into photo silkscreens and printed them on canvas. Smudges, misalignments, and inconsistencies were accepted, giving the paintings a handmade appearance despite his use of a commercial process.
His New York studio, The Factory, became a well-known gathering place that brought together distinguished intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities, and wealthy patrons. He promoted a collection of personalities known as Warhol superstars, and is credited with inspiring the widely used expression "15 minutes of fame." In the late 1960s, he managed and produced the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground and founded Interview magazine. He authored numerous books, including The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and Popism: The Warhol Sixties. He lived openly as a gay man before the gay liberation movement.
In 1968, Warhol was shot and nearly killed by the actress Valerie Solanis, who had had a bit part in one of his films. Post-shooting, his work became both more commercial and more introspective. He hired himself out as a portraitist, making flattering images of the rich and famous; but he also made haunting self-portraits that hinted at his reported fear of death.
One of the 20th century’s best-known artists, Andy Warhol made his name in the early 1960s with paintings and prints of brand name celebrities and foods ranging from Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor to Coca-Cola and Campbell’s Soup. These brash, innovative works are considered icons of Pop Art, a movement that both critiqued and celebrated postwar American consumer culture. By the end of the decade, Warhol had become a celebrity in his own right, equally famous for his platinum wig and the star-studded parties he threw at his studio, the Factory, as he was for his paintings, drawings, sculpture, and films.
After gallbladder surgery, Warhol died of cardiac arrhythmia in February 1987 at the age of 58.
Although he was only 58 years old when he died, he left an immense body of work that seems increasingly relevant today. In summary, Warhol changed the way we viewed everyday objects and is one of the most influential people in modern art and defined the Pop Art Movement.
POP Art Assignment: Create a series of nine images formatted together inspired by Andy Warhol. You image can be a pop icon or a self portrait.
View tutorials for help and inspiration. Consider using complementary colors. The intent is to have your artwork appear like a “silkscreen”