Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol, born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 6, 1928, was the leading figure in the Pop Art movement, as well as a film director, producer and band manager for the Velvet Underground. His career also diverged into photography, writing, and magazine publishing.

He attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now known as the Carnegie-Mellon University, and graduated in 1949 with a degree in pictorial design. Immediately after, he set out for New York, abandoning the A in Warhola and starting his career in illustration.

He led a successful career as a commercial illustrator. His first commission came from Glamour Magazine in 1949, where he was asked to draw women’s shoes. Over the next decade, Warhol became a designer for the shoe manufacturer, Israel Miller.

Even with his financial success, Warhol had a growing desire to experiment in a new medium. Beginning in the 1960s, Warhol worked on a series of paintings based on comic strips, such as Superman and Dick Tracy, including the auspicious, Green Coca-Cola Bottles. His first exhibition was in 1962 at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles; it was here that his iconic Campbell’s soup cans were first shown to the public. In conjunction, Warhol was also being exhibited at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York. In 1963, Warhol traded in his paintbrush for silk-screen printing, a medium that allowed for mass production, adding an ironic spin to the subject matter in these works, which became icons of consumerism.

It was at this time that other Pop artists, such as Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, also began to achieve recognition around the country. The Pop art movement presented a challenge to the traditions of art history and the elitism of the art world by including imagery from popular culture, objects and celebrities the masses would recognize. The artists of this era took the mundane and elevated it to the realm of fine art. Their work and vision continues to have a grasp on the public to this day.

The ‘70s was a quieter decade in his career. He began to focus more on the entrepreneurial side of art, taking commissions from rich patrons to create portraits. This includes one of esteemed Pop art collector Kimiko Powers, originally created in 1972. Kimiko’s portrait was then produced in an edition of two hundred and fifty silk-screen prints in 1981.

When the ‘80s rolled in, he started to re-emerge onto the art scene, garnering him both critical and financial success. Warhol started to produce more commissioned art projects, as well as a variety of other commercial activities. In 1983, he produced a series of prints based on endangered species. This was first exhibited at the American Museum of Natural History. Some of the traction that he regained during this period can also be attributed to his many collaborations with prolific young artists at the time, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.

There was never a moment in his career where he denied his obsession, or self-proclaimed philosophy, viewing art as a business and gaining as much publicity as possible.

Warhol died from post-surgical complications on February 22, 1987.