Nationality: American. Born: Andrew Warhola in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, 6 August 1928. Education: Studied at Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, B.F.A., 1949. Career: Illustrator for Glamour Magazine (New York), 1949–50; commercial artist, New York, 1950–57; independent artist, New York, 1957 until his death in 1987; first silk-screen paintings, 1962; began making films, mainly with Paul Morrissey, a member of his "Factory," 1963; shot by former "Factory" regular Valerie Solanas, 1968; editor, Inter/Viewmagazine, New York; made promo video for "Hello Again" by The Cars, 1984. Awards: 6th Film Culture Award, New York, 1964; Award, Los Angeles Film Festival, 1964. Died: Of cardiac arrest following routine gall bladder operation in New York, 22 February 1987.
Films as Director and Producer:
Tarzan and Jane Regained . . . Sort Of; Sleep; Kiss; AndyWarhol Films Jack Smith Filming Normal Love; DanceMovie (Roller Skate); Salome and Delilah; Haircut; Blow Job
Empire; Batman Dracula; The End of Dawn; Naomi andRufus Kiss; Henry Geldzahler; The Lester Persky Story (Soap Opera); Couch; Shoulder; Mario Banana; Harlot; Taylor Mead's Ass
Thirteen Most Beautiful Women; Thirteen Most BeautifulBoys; Fifty Fantastics; Fifty Personalities; Ivy and John; Screen Test I; Screen Test II; The Life of Juanita Castro; Drunk; Suicide; Horse; Vinyl; Bitch; Poor Little Rich Girl; Face; Restaurant; Afternoon; Prison; Space; Outer andInner Space; Camp; Paul Swan; Hedy (Hedy the Shoplifteror The Fourteen-Year-Old Girl); The Closet; Lupe; MoreMilk, Evette
Kitchen; My Hustler; Bufferin (Gerard Malanga Reads Poetry); Eating Too Fast; The Velvet Underground; Chelsea Girls
* * * * (Four Stars) [parts of * * * * include InternationalVelvet; Alan and Dickin; Imitation of Christ; Coutroom; Gerard Has His Hair Removed with Nair; Katrina Dead; Sausalito; Alan and Apple; Group One; Sunset Beach onLong Island; High Ashbury; Tiger Morse]; I, a Man; BikeBoy; Nude Restaurant; The Loves of Ondine
Lonesome Cowboys; Blue Movie (Fuck); Flesh (d Morrissey, pr Warhol)
Trash (d Morrissey, pr Warhol)
Women in Revolt (co-d with Morrissey); Heat (d Morrissey, pr Warhol)
L'Amour (co-d, pr, co-sc with Morrissey)
Andy Warhol's Frankenstein (d Morrissey, pr Warhol); AndyWarhol's Dracula (d Morrissey, pr Warhol)
Andy Warhol's Bad (d Morrissey, pr Warhol)
Vamp (Wenk) (contributing artist)
By WARHOL: books—
Blue Movie, script, New York, 1970.
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), New York, 1975.
The Andy Warhol Diaries, edited by Pat Hackett, New York, 1989.
Andy Warhol: In His Own Words, London, 1991.
Angels, angels, angels, London, 1994.
Cats, cats, cats, London, 1994.
By WARHOL: articles—
Interview with David Ehrenstein, in Film Culture (New York), Spring 1966.
"Nothing to Lose," an interview with Gretchen Berg, in Cahiers duCinéma in English (New York), May 1967.
Numerous interviews conducted by Warhol, in Inter/View (New York).
Interview in The Film Director as Superstar, by Joseph Gelmis, Garden City, New York, 1970.
Interview with Tony Rayns, in Cinema (London), August 1970.
Interview with Ralph Pomeroy, in Afterimage (Rochester), Autumn 1970.
On WARHOL: books—
Coplans, John, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970.
Crone, Rainer, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970.
Gidal, Peter, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970.
Wilcox, John, The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol, New York, 1971.
Koch, Stephen, Stargazer: Andy Warhol's World and His Films, New York, 1973; revised edition, 1985.
Smith, Patrick S., Andy Warhol's Art and Films, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1986.
Bourdon, David, Warhol, 1989.
Finkelstein, Nat, Warhol: The Factory Years 1964–67, London, 1989.
Gidal, Peter, Materialist Film, London, 1989.
Guiles, Fred Lawrence, Loner at the Ball: The Life of Andy Warhol, New York, 1989.
James, David E., Allegories of Cinema: American Film in the Sixties, Princeton, New Jersey, 1989.
O'Pray, Michael, Andy Warhol: Film Factory, London, 1989.
Colacello, Bob, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, New York, 1990.
Koch, Stephen, Stargazer: The Life, World, and Films of AndyWarhol, New York, 1991.
Inboden, Gudrun, Andy Warhol: White Disaster I, 1963, Stuttgart, 1992.
Geldzahler, Henry, Andy Warhol: Portraits of the Seventies andEighties, London, 1993.
Katz, Jonathan, Andy Warhol, New York, 1993.
Alexander, Paul, Death and Disaster: The Rise of the Warhol Empireand the Race for Andy's Millions, New York, 1994.
Cagle, Van M., Reconstructing Pop/Subculture: Art, Rock, and AndyWarhol, Thousand Oaks, California, 1995.
Tillman, Lynne; photographs by Stephen Shore, The Velvet Years:Warhol's Factory, 1965–67, New York, 1995.
Suárez, Juan Antonio, Bike Boys, Drag Queens, and Superstars:Avant-Garde, Mass Culture, and Gay Identities in the 1960sUnderground Cinema, Bloomington, Indiana, 1996.
Bockris, Victor, Warhol, New York, 1997.
Pratt, Alan R., editor, The Critical Response to Andy Warhol, Westport, Connecticut, 1997.
MacCabe, Colin, with Mark Francis and Peter Wollen, editors, Who IsAndy Warhol? London, 1997.
Dalton, David, Andy Warhol: The Factory Years, 1964–1967, New York, 2000.
On WARHOL: articles—
Stoller, James, "Beyond Cinema: Notes on Some Films by Andy Warhol," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Fall 1966.
Tyler, Parker, "Dragtime and Drugtime: or Film à la Warhol," in Evergreen Review (New York), April 1967.
"Warhol," in Film Culture (New York), Summer 1967.
Lugg, Andrew, "On Andy Warhol," in Cineaste (New York), Winter 1967/68 and Spring 1968.
Rayns, Tony, "Andy Warhol's Films Inc.: Communication in Action," in Cinema (London), August 1970.
Heflin, Lee, "Notes on Seeing the Films of Andy Warhol," in Afterimage (Rochester), Autumn 1970.
Bourdon, David, "Warhol as Filmmaker," in Art in America (New York), May-June 1971.
Cipnic, D.J., "Andy Warhol: Iconographer," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1972.
Larson, R., "A Retrospective Look at the Films of D. W. Griffith and Andy Warhol," in Film Journal (New York), Fall-Winter 1972.
James, David E., "The Producer as Author," in Wide Angle (Baltimore, Maryland), vol. 7, no. 3, 1985.
Cohn, L., obituary in Variety (New York), 25 February 1987.
Babitz, E., "The Soup Can as Big as the Ritz," in Movieline, November 1989.
Currie, C., "Andy Warhol: Enigma, Icon, Master," in Semiotica, vol. 80, no. 3–4, 1990.
Huhtamo, E., "Valkokankaan suuri ei-kukaan. Andy Warhol elokuvantekijana," Filmihullu (Helsinki), no. 5, 1990.
Diana, M., "Blow Cinema," in Segnocinema (Vicenza), vol. 10, no. 46, November 1990.
Ulver, S., "Andy Warhol. Realita a mytus," Film and Doba, vol. 37, no. 1 Spring 1991.
Finnane, Gabrielle, Kosmorama (Copenhagen), vol. 37, no. 198, Winter 1991.
Tully, Judd, "15 Minutes Later: Warhol Now," in ARTnews, March 1992.
Byron, Christopher, "Andy's Magic Money Machine," in New York, 30 November 1992.
Dixon, W. W., "The Early Films of Andy Warhol," in ClassicImages (Muscatine, Iowa), no. 214, April 1993.
Stevens, Mark, "Saint Andy," in New York, 23 May 1994.
Assayas, O., "Andy Warhol," in Positif (Paris), no. 400, June 1994.
Taubin, A., "My Time Is Not Your Time," in Sight and Sound (London), vol. 4, no. 6, June 1994.
Long, Marion, "The Andy Warhol Museum," in Omni, June 1994.
Adams, Brooks, "Industrial-strength Warhol," in Art in America, September 1994.
James, D. E., "The Warhol Screenplays: Interview with Ronald Tavel," in Persistence of Vision (Maspeth, New York), no. 11, 1995.
Alexander, Paul, "Murky Image," in ARTnews, February 1995.
Bandy, Mary Lea, "Another Cinema Must Be Saved," in Journal ofFilm Preservation (Brussels), no. 50, March 1995.
Peck, Ron, and Stephen Thrower, "Directed by Paul Morrissey. An Interview with Paul Morrissey," in Eyeball, no. 4, Winter 1996.
On WARHOL: film—
American Masters: Superstar—The Life of Andy Warhol, 1990.
* * *
By the time he screened his first films in 1963, Andy Warhol was well on his way to becoming the most famous "pop" artist in the world, and his variations on the theme of Campbell's soup cans had already assumed archetypal significance for art in the age of mechanical reproduction. Given Warhol's penchant for the automatic and mass-produced, his movement from sculpture, canvas, and silk-screen into cinema seemed logical; and his films were as passive, as intentionally "empty", as significant of the artist's absence as his previous work or as the image he projected of himself. One of his earliest films, Kiss, was no more nor less than a series of people kissing in closeup, each scene running the three-minute length of a 16mm daylight reel, complete with flash frames at both ends. But it was his 1963 film Sleep, a six-hour movie comprised of variously framed shots of a naked sleeping man, which made Warhol a star on the burgeoning New York underground film scene. As though to dispel any doubts that his message was the medium, Warhol followed Sleep with Empire, an eight-hour stationary view of the Empire State Building, creating a kind of cinematic limit case for the Bazinian integrity of the shot. It was a film of such conceptual significance that if it did not exist it would have to be invented; yet it was a film that was equally unwatchable (even Warhol refused to sit through it).
During the period 1963 to 1967, Warhol made some fifty-five films, ranging in length from four minutes (Mario Banana, 1964) to twenty-five hours (* * * *, 1967). All were informed by the passive, mechanical aesthetic of simply turning on the camera to record what was in front of it. Generally, what was recorded were the antics of Warhol's E. 47th Street "Factory" coterie—a host of friends, artists, junkies, transvestites, rock singers, hustlers, fugitives, and hangerson. Ad-libbing, "camping," being themselves (and often more than themselves) before the unblinking eye of Warhol's camera, they became "superstars"—underground celebrities epitomizing Warhol's consumer-democratic ideal of fifteen minutes' fame for everyone.
Despite Warhol's cultivated image as the "tycoon of passivity," his films display a cool but very dry wit. Blow Job, for example, consisted of thirty minutes of a closeup of the expressionless face of a man being fellated outside the frame—a coyly humorous presentation of a forbidden act in an image perversely composed as a denial of pleasure (for the actor and the audience). Mario Banana simply presented the spectacle of transvestite Mario Montez eating bananas while in drag. Harlot, Warhol's first sound film, featured Mario (again eating bananas) sitting next to a woman in an evening dress, with the entirety of the virtually inaudible dialogue coming from three men positioned off-screen.
In the course of his films, Warhol seemed to be retracing the history of the cinema, from silence to sound to color (Chelsea Girls); from a fascination with the camera's "documentary" capabilities (Empire) to attempts at narrative by 1965. Vinyl, an adaption of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, involved a single high-angle camera position tightly framing a group of mostly uninvolved factory types, with protagonist Gerard Malanga sitting in a chair, reading his lines off a script on the floor, and being tortured with dripping candle wax and a "popper" overdose. When the camera accidently fell over in the middle of the proceedings, it was quickly returned to its original position without a break in the action. My Hustler offered a modicum of story, audible dialogue, and two shots—one of them a repetitive pan from a gay man talking to friends on the deck of a Fire Island beach house to his hired male prostitute sunning himself on the beach. The second shot, which fails to reveal the outcome of a wager made in the first section, shows the hustler and another man taking showers and grooming themselves in a crowded bathroom (a scene which made the pages of Life magazine for its brief male nudity).
It was Chelsea Girls, however, which resulted in Warhol's breakthrough to national and international exposure. A three-hour film in black-and-white and color, shown on two screens at once, it featured almost all the resident "superstars" in scenes supposedly taking place in various rooms of New York's Chelsea Hotel. After Chelsea Girls' financial success, subsequent Warhol films like I, a Man; Bike Boy; Nude Restaurant; and Lonesome Cowboys became a bit more technically astute and conventionally feature-length. Simultaneously, the scenes taking place in front of the camera in these films, while they maintained their bizarre, directionless, and ad-libbed quality, became more sensational in their presentation of nudity and sex. Warhol's last hurrah, Lonesome Cowboys, was actually shot in Arizona. It featured a number of "superstars" dressing in western garb, posing and walking through a nearly non-existent story amongst western movie sets. It was the last film Warhol completed before he was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt by marginal factory character Valerie Solanas.
Warhol's shooting marked the beginning of a period of reclusiveness for the artist. Subsequent "Warhol" films were the product of cohort and collaborator Paul Morrissey, who has been credited with the increasing commercialism of the 1967 films (not to mention the decline of the factory "scene"). While Warhol lay in the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds, Morrissey completed a film on his own titled Flesh—a series of episodes basically recounting a day in the life of Joe Dallesandro (who appears nude more often than not), featuring Warhol-like performances and camera work, but adding a discernible story line and even character motivations.
From 1970 to 1974, Morrissey's films under Warhol's name quickly became not only more commercial, but more technically accomplished and traditionally plotted as well. After Trash, a kind of watershed film that featured Joe and Holly Woodlawn in a narrative comedy about some marginal New York junkies and low-lifes, Morrissey even began to tone down the nudity. Women in Revolt, which was virtually a full-fledged melodrama, featured three transvestites playing the women of the title. Heat, shot in Los Angeles, had Dallesandro and New York cult actress/screen personality Sylvia Miles playing out a sleazy remake of Sunset Boulevard. L'Amour took the whole Morrissey coterie to Paris.
Morrissey's big step into mainstream filmmaking came with the 1974 production of Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, a preposterously gory, tongue-in-cheek horror film rendered in perfectly seamless, classical Hollywood style, and in a highly accomplished 3-D process. As outrageous as it was in its surrealistically bloody excess, and for all its "high-camp" attitude, the film bore almost no resemblance to the films of Andy Warhol; nor did Morrissey's Blood for Dracula, made at the same time, with virtually the same cast, but without 3-D. Since that time, Morrissey has pursued a career apart from Warhol's name as an independent commercial filmmaker.
Born August 6, 1928
Artist, filmmaker, publisher, entrepreneur
Andy Warhol was one of the most imaginative, thought-provoking, and influential artists of the twentieth century. He was a key figure in the development of Pop Art, an artistic movement originating in the 1960s. In Pop Art, common objects are the subject of the artwork. He inspired outrage and delight with work such as his famous Campbell's Soup Cans series of paintings. He was also fascinated by fame and the famous, creating silk-screen images of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe (1926–1962), Elizabeth Taylor (1932–), and Elvis Presley (1935–1977). Above all Warhol challenged accepted ideas of what art should be and was responsible for breaking down the barrier between art and commercial design.
"Warhol may be the one person who has understood, consciously or not I don't know, that to be a star is to be a blank screen. He has lived by that. A blank screen for the projection of spectators' phantasms, dreams, and desires."
—Thierry de Duve in Andy Warhol, 2001.
Becomes commercial artist in New York City
He was born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928, in McKeesport, a borough of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His parents had emigrated from what was then Czechoslovakia. Warhol had a childhood marked by poverty. His father, Andrej Warhola, was a laborer and construction worker. Like many men during the Great Depression (1929–41), Andrej was forced to travel in search of work. As a result Warhol and his two older brothers were dependent on their mother, Julia (Zavacky) Warhola. She made artificial flowers and sold them door-to-door. Warhol attended Holmes Elementary School as well as Saturday art classes at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (later Carnegie Mellon University). After graduating from Schenley High School in 1945, he returned to the institute, enrolling as a freshman majoring in pictorial design. Despite almost failing his freshman year, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in fine art in 1949.
Soon after graduating from the institute, Warhol moved to New York City and began a career as a commercial artist. At first he shared an apartment. As he became more successful, however, he moved into his own apartment on Lexington Avenue. Warhol's mother moved in with him in 1953 and lived with him until 1971. She acted as housekeeper and cook. He worked and enjoyed the colorful, sociable lifestyle of New York's underground gay community. Warhol threw himself into many different projects. Perhaps his most famous commercial designs were the I. Miller shoes advertisements that appeared weekly in the New York Times. One of these advertisements won the Art Directors' Club medal in 1957. He also designed store window displays for the jeweler Tiffany and Company and numerous magazine and book covers. Along the way, he collected many awards and positive reviews.
By the late 1950s Warhol was earning $100,000 a year. He considered breaking out of the purely commercial art world and into fine art. He had already begun to sell some of his original works. He also gave away printed collections of his sketches to clients. Among the most collectable of these are the booklets The Gold Book (1957) and Wild Raspberries (1959). He continually experimented with new techniques and materials. Moreover, he began to mold his own appearance so that he became his own work of art. As his hair thinned, Warhol took to wearing bleached blond wigs. He also had plastic surgeries to reduce the size of his nose and to remove skin blemishes left over from a childhood illness. Warhol's physical image would soon become as recognizable as his best-known art works.
Working at The Factory
By 1960 Warhol was still taking on commercial projects, but only to fund his less profitable fine art. His attempt to sell paintings similar in style to the large-scale comic strips of Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997) failed. In 1962 Warhol exhibited his series of thirty-three Campbell's Soup Cans paintings. First appearing at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, the series consisted of canvases depicting soup cans stacked up in rows. The cans were realistically drawn; Warhol presented them in a strikingly plain way. This work had a dramatic effect
In the 1950s the United States entered a period of consumerism, or increased purchasing of mass-produced goods. This changed American life forever. The new era of consumerism followed the poverty of the Great Depression (1929–41) and the rationing of products during World War II (1939–45). Suddenly, consumer goods such as refrigerators, automobiles, and televisions became widely available. Mass production meant that items of all kinds became cheap to make and buy. Americans lost no time in taking advantage of these items. Pop Art was a celebration of this new materialistic culture. It made art from mass-produced objects, the media, and the world of glamour. It was first given a name by the British critic Lawrence Alloway in the journal Architectural Digest in 1958.
Pop Art became an alternative to the artistic style known as Abstract Expressionism, which had dominated the art world for most of the 1940s and 1950s. It made stars of such artists as Jackson Pollock (1912–1956) and Mark Rothko (1903–1970). It was serious and philosophical; most people found it difficult to understand. Other artists such as Robert Rauschenberg (1925–), Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997), David Hockney (1937–), and Andy Warhol drew inspiration instead from comic strips, advertising, packaging designs, and everyday scenes. Lichtenstein became famous for blowing up newspaper comic strips to enormous size. Hockney is well known for his gaudy paintings of empty swimming pools. Warhol, who is thought by many to be the most important Pop artist of all, recreated Campbell's soup cans and Brillo boxes on canvas and as sculptures.
Pop Art used humor to challenge conventional ideas of what the subject of art could be. It drew on images from the media, entertainment, and Hollywood. Lichtenstein's enormous newspaper comic strips often appeared on the walls of public buildings. Placing Pop Art in strange contexts changed the way celebrities and other popular images were seen. It encouraged the audience to look at them in new ways. This was the central idea in the Pop Art revolution: that popular, mass-produced images and designs could become art if they were treated as art, regardless of their subject matter. Andy Warhol is widely quoted as saying: "Everything is beautiful. Pop is everything."
on the art world of the time. Warhol had taken an image designed to sell soup and displayed it as something to be looked at as art. Although the subject matter did not conform to the art world's ideas about art, no one could deny Warhol's command of color and technique. At first, the Campbell Soup Company tried to sue Warhol for violating their copyright on the images. But they soon realized that the paintings were worth far more in publicity than the company could ever hope to win in damages.
In 1962 Warhol also opened a studio at East Forty-Seventh Street in New York known as The Factory. The studio was well named as much of the work, such as the silk-screened portraits of famous people, was mass-produced by assistants. This production method posed a problem for art dealers, however. Because Warhol did not sign his work, it became very difficult to identify one of his originals. Warhol's silk-screen portraits were often produced in a brash, cheap-looking style, as in the work Gold Marilyn Monroe (1962). Such art emphasized how artificial and manufactured the public image of famous people can be. The silk screens gave their subject an even more unreal appearance than the original publicity shots from which they were taken. Warhol produced similar images using the faces of many famous people, including the Chinese leader Mao Tsetung (1893–1976) and First Lady Jackie Kennedy (1929–1994), the grieving widow of assassinated president John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63; see entry).
The growing violence of the civil rights movement and, later, Kennedy's assassination, are thought by some critics to have inspired Warhol's Disasters series of paintings. Produced between 1962 and 1968, these depict, against loud and brightly colored backgrounds, the victims of road accidents, street riots, suicides, and even the electric chair. With such controversial material, Warhol and his work became the subject of frequent media stories and interviews. He often hired spokespeople to answer questions on his behalf. When he was persuaded to speak, he often invented answers about his childhood, even giving different birth dates and locations. But one story that seems to be true is that throughout his school days Warhol's mother fed him Campbell's soup for lunch.
In 1964 Warhol followed the success of the soup cans series with a series of sculptures based on Brillo soap-pad boxes. These were made from wooden boxes that were stenciled to look exactly like the Brillo boxes on sale in grocery stores everywhere. Once again Warhol challenged ideas of what qualified as art. This action also earned him a great deal of publicity. When the Brillo boxes were transported to Canada for an exhibition, they passed through customs as commercial goods. As such, an import duty had to be paid. Had they been classed as art, they could have been imported into Canada duty free.
Warhol is noted for working in a wide range of media. Besides the silk screens, paintings, and sculptures, he also published pamphlets, created a controversial mural for the 1964 New York World's Fair, staged media events, designed wallpaper, and sold dresses made from paper. He also made several 16mm movies (a film format used at the time) that continued to intrigue and shock audiences in the twenty-first century. One of these, called Chelsea Girls (1966), documented the lives of people living in the run down Chelsea Hotel in New York. The movie contained scenes edited together randomly and displayed on two screens at the same time. Another, Empire (1964), is an unedited film showing the Empire State Building during an eight-hour period. Trash appeared in 1970 and features live heroin injections and gay sex. In the early 1970s Warhol began publishing Inter/View (later known as Interview) magazine, a journal of fashion, glamour, and celebrity life that was still in business in 2004.
In addition to Warhol's work, the media were curious about the artist's life. Warhol's lifestyle seemed to represent the permissive attitude of the 1960s, especially in big cities. The Factory became the headquarters for a group of misfits that Warhol called "the superstars." They included transvestites, strippers, rebellious rich kids, struggling musicians, drug addicts, and others outside the mainstream. Somehow Warhol himself managed to avoid being sucked into the chaos that surrounded him. He preferred to stay in what he called his "weekday rut" and keep regular working hours.
Some of those in Warhol's strange social circle became famous in their own right. Lou Reed and the band The Velvet Underground, for example, were promoted by Warhol between 1966 and 1968. He even produced their first album, which was called Andy Warhol. The Velvet Underground became the house band at Warhol's nightclub, known as The Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Many of Warhol's followers worshipped him. However, Warhol often exploited their loyalty and treated them as a big joke. One of them, Valerie Solanis, shot and seriously wounded Warhol on June 3, 1968, claiming that he had too much control over her. Warhol was clinically dead for a short time, but doctors managed to save his life. Warhol later recalled in his book POPism: "I couldn't figure out why, of all the people Valerie must have known, I had to be the one to get shot. I guess it was just being in the wrong place at the right time. That's what assassination is all about."
By the 1970s Warhol was one of the most influential and respected of all living artists. Although his best work was completed during the 1960s, nothing he did failed to sell. In the early 1970s he could charge more than $25,000 for a single portrait. Warhol himself had become famous around the world. He socialized with music and movie stars and was entertained at lavish receptions by world leaders, including American presidents and the shah of Iran. He acted as host at Studio 54, a notorious New York nightclub, and lived a high-profile life of parties, movie premiers, and glittering social events.
Warhol died on February 22, 1987, from complications following a routine gall bladder operation. He left an estate valued at over $220 million. As an artist Warhol revolutionized the art world and helped narrow the gap between art and design. But perhaps his greatest achievement was his understanding of fame and the media. In the early 2000s the Warhol "brand" was familiar to millions. His Marilyn silk-screen portraits graced objects from T-shirts to coffee cups, while exhibitions of his work drew huge crowds. Warhol's own image, with his side-parted white wig, dark glasses, and leather jacket, was among the most recognizable in the early 2000s.
For More Information
Bolton, Linda. Andy Warhol. New York: Franklin Watts, 2002.
Hackett, Pat, ed. The Andy Warhol Diaries. New York: Warner Books, 1989.
McCabe, David. A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol. New York: Phaidon Press, 2003.
Michelson, Annette. Andy Warhol. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.
Ratcliff, Carter. Warhol. New York: Abbeville Press, 1983.
Schaffner, Ingrid. Andy Warhol. New York: Henry N. Abrams, 1999.
Warhol, Andy, with Pat Hackett. POPism: The Warhol '60s. New York: Harcourt, 1980.
Watson, Steven. Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003.
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.http://www.warholfoundation.org (accessed August 2004).
The Andy Warhol Museum.http://www.warhol.org (accessed August 2004).
(b. 6 August 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; d. 22 February 1987 in New York City), artist, film-maker, and entrepreneur whose pop art works of the 1960s, featuring such icons as Campbell's soup cans, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley, made him one of the world's most influential and popular artists.
Born Andrew Warhola, Warhol was the youngest of three boys born to Ondrej Warhola, a laborer for the Eichleay Corporation, and Julia (Zavacky) Warhola, a homemaker and folk artist. Warhol attended Schenley High School in Pittsburgh, graduating in 1945, and then undertook a lengthy apprenticeship in commercial art. After graduating from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in 1948 with a B.F.A. in pictoral design, Warhol moved with fellow artist Philip Pearlstein to New York City. There, Warhol dropped the last letter of his family name and poured himself into his art. His spare, evocative sketches quickly captured attention and helped him become one of the top commercial artists in the city. By 1955 he was earning over $100,000 annually, though his mother, who had moved in with him in his apartment on Lexington Avenue, pointed out that he was spending $125,000 each year.
Warhol loved the clandestine but culturally rich gay life of New York City and began to collect important works of art, which he piled in his home alongside mounds of American kitsch art. He had larger ambitions and gradually created an individual style of artistic expression. His first efforts stemmed from his commercial work and included sketchbooks of gold leaf shoes, cats, and flowers. His work was featured in galleries, and he published limited edition books containing reprints of his sketches. Still, he lacked recognition. The New York Times labeled his Wild Raspberries show, which opened on 1 December 1959, as "clever frivolity in excelsis." Even though the pop artists Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein were lampooning abstract expressionism, this art form still dominated the scene. As a result critics viewed Warhol's commercial work with horror. Nevertheless, Warhol had by the close of the 1950s sustained a large cadre of contacts, even if many in the New York art world despised him.
As the 1960s dawned Warhol needed a gallery and a distinctive style. He began drawing such childhood cartoon heroes as Dick Tracy, Popeye, and Nancy, and a series of "crummy, cheap ads," though Lichtenstein had already appropriated cartoon imagery in his brutal satires of the artist Jackson Pollock. Warhol began inviting Ivan Karp, an assistant in the Leo Castelli gallery, to view his newer work. Warhol was reinventing his persona as a combination of Marilyn Monroe's vulnerability and Marlon Brando's monosyllabic, punk style. Karp liked one of Warhol's paintings, which presented elaborate, smeared lines of Coca-Cola bottles. Warhol also played inane pop songs for Karp about a hundred times a day until he "understood what it meant." Warhol's sublime, satirical humor helped create this new persona of the artist as pop symbol, a persona he expanded enormously over the next decade. Karp convinced Castelli to sign Warhol to his illustrious stable of pop artists.
Warhol's major notoriety came with his meticulous recreation of a series of Campbell's soup cans. His mother had served him the instant soup daily for lunch during the Great Depression. Campbell's Soup Cans did especially well in Los Angeles, where the pop movement was becoming sovereign.
Warhol began to attract a cadre of artists, assistants, lovers, and sycophants to his home, which served as a salon. There, he discovered the method of silk screening, which, as the author Victor Bockris explains, is a "stencil process in which a photographic image transferred to a porous screen can be quickly duplicated on canvas by laying the screen on the canvas and applying paint or ink over it with a rubber squeegee." Warhol immediately realized the commercial and artistic possibilities of this method. Coincidentally, the actor Marilyn Monroe committed suicide on 4 August 1962, and Warhol decided to paint a series of images of her as an homage. Borrowing a lush still of her from the movie Niagara (1953), he used the outline to frame harsh, almost neon colors. Using the silk-screen method, he reproduced this painting with color variations dozens of times, and then applied the method to another pop icon, Elvis Presley. He then reproduced the Mona Lisa and boxes of Brillo brand soap, and made a controversial mural for the 1964 World's Fair. The mural, which covered a huge wall, featured mug shots of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's thirteen most-wanted men. Angrily, Governor Nelson Rockefeller and the fair's sponsors ordered it to be painted over. Ironically, the next day the New York Times ran an article about the spate of robbing at the fair.
Warhol's image appropriations made him the most notorious pop artist of the decade. Shrewdly, he associated himself with global icons and with controversy. In an era when American cultural dominance was controversial, his inscrutable gloss on media fame won adherents in Europe and across America. As his notoriety grew, the monetary values of his paintings soared, and Warhol became a blue-chip artistic commodity, a reputation he enjoyed.
Ever expanding his artistic vision, Warhol moved into filmmaking, which was a natural outgrowth of his fascination with Hollywood and fame, and a good way to use the squads of characters who now fawned on him. Warhol eschewed commercial production techniques by using a hand-held camera to create his "movies." Immediately, he created controversy with his films, which included a six-hour film of a man sleeping, a lengthy film of the Empire State Building from dawn to dusk, and a film of couples engaged in various forms of sex. In 1966 he identified a number of wayward society debutantes as superstars in Chelsea Girls, which won him a wider audience and praise for innovation. Warhol also began recording hundreds of hours of conversation with various people, all of whom he labeled superstars, though no Hollywood producer would ever touch them. He also hired a large Ukrainian hall to showcase Lou Reed's rock band, The Velvet Underground. Warhol, who produced records for the band, designed the cover of their first album with a peel-off image of a banana on the front.
Warhol's studio on Union Square West was named the Factory. Its walls were covered with aluminum foil, giving it a look of cheap pretension. As the painter's fame grew, the Factory became a must-visit spot for any hip tourist in New York City. Each night, Warhol's entourage moved across the square to Max's Kansas City, a phenomenally popular restaurant and bar, where Warhol held court to a shifting array of rock stars, petty nobility, and Hollywood starlets, along with his coterie of drag queens, boyfriends, and druggies. Warhol's openness and his exploitation of misfits backfired tragically on 3 June 1968. Valerie Solanas, an aspiring East Village playwright, and founder and sole member of SCUM (the Society for Cutting Up Men), had become angry with Warhol for losing a pornographic manuscript she had submitted to him. At the Factory, Solanas shot Warhol several times, hitting him in the chest and stomach, nearly killing him. Warhol was in the hospital for seven weeks, and he suffered from the wounds the rest of his life. Solanas, who declared herself mentally incompetent to stand trial, was sent to an insane asylum. The feminist spokeswoman Ti-Grace Atkinson declared that Solanas would surely go down in history as a hero for the women's movement. A local radical group denounced Warhol as a "plastic fascist" and applauded Solanas.
Warhol returned to work slowly. His near-death experience only amplified his fame. He produced a major movie called Trash (1970), which featured sodomy and drug injection yet played at movie houses all over the country. His first retrospective was held at New York City's Museum of Modern Art, where he wallpapered the gallery with purple and yellow cow's heads; a similar show opened in Germany, and Rainer Crone published the first serious monograph on Warhol. Always the entrepreneur, he started a magazine, Inter/View (later Interview), which was still prosperous at the beginning of twenty-first century.
After 1970 Warhol's fame grew exponentially. He created a major work in 1972 by appropriating and silk screening a political image of the Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung. He started a lucrative portrait business, charging $25,000 to $50,000 per work. During the late 1970s he became a social star of the disco era, presiding over the dance club Studio 54 and appearing at virtually every social event of note. Warhol attempted to cultivate the shah of Iran before that dictator was deposed in 1978. Warhol also created thousands of party-scene images, which he published in a series of illustrated books in the 1970s and 1980s. He also published barely edited transcripts of his taped conversations.
Warhol's originality was never as great as it was in the mid-1960s, though anything he produced was immediately purchased. His wealth and reputation were still growing when he died of cardiac arrest after a gall bladder operation in 1987. Today, with retrospectives, a constant stream of monographs written on him, and his influence apparent everywhere, Warhol's enormous reputation is secure. Warhol is buried in the Warhola family plot in Saint John the Baptist Catholic Cemetery, Byzantine Rite, in Bethel Park, a suburb of Pittsburgh.
Comments from Warhol on his life and work in the 1960s can be found in Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett, Popism: The Warhol 1960s (1988). For a good biography on Warhol, see Victor Bockris, Warhol: The Biography (1997). Information about Warhol's creative work can be found in Patrick S. Smith, Andy Warhol's Art and Films (1986). Obituaries are in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times (both 23 Feb. 1987).
Graham Russell Hodges
Artist, filmmaker, and writer Andy Warhol was one of the heroes of counterculture society during the late 1960s and 1970s. His influence soared far beyond the confines of museums and art galleries. Warhol's work appropriated the images of American popular culture for the purposes of high art, creating portraits that celebrated a superficial and sometimes violent society. He was obsessed with personal fame and wealth and was a fixture on the New York celebrity scene for almost three decades.
At his death in 1987, Andy Warhol was a multimillionaire who had used the techniques of mass production to create an enormous output of art and photography. People who had no interest in art recognized him instantly, and virtually no one in the American artistic community was indifferent to his work. A London Times reporter noted: "If an artist is to be judged by his impact on the popular consciousness, then Warhol was the Michelangelo of his age." He is perhaps best remembered for his oft-quoted quip, "In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes."
The details of Warhol's personal history are somewhat shrouded in mystery and myth. Most of his biographers agree that he was born on August 6, 1928, although some sources say 1927, 1930, or 1931. Warhol himself once said, "I never give my background, and anyway, I make it all up differently every time I'm asked." His father, Ondrej Warhola, arrived in the United States from Czechoslovakia in 1912, and in 1921 he sent for Warhol's mother, Julia (Zavacky) Warhola. Ondrej Warhola did construction work at first, then later toiled as a coal miner.
Andy Warhol was a high-strung child who suffered from St. Vitus' Dance, a nervous disorder characterized by a lack of coordination and spastic movements of the arms, legs, and facial muscles. His physical frailty and extremely pale complexion made him a target of abuse and cruel teasing from his peers. When he was 14 years old, his father died. Despite the financial hardship this caused, Warhol was able to come up with the tuition money to attend the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University), where he majored in pictorial design. It was while he was still a student that he made his first mark in the world of art with a shocking painting titled, "The Broad Gave Me My Face, But I Can Pick My Own Nose."
Following his graduation from college in 1949, Warhol moved to New York City to pursue a career in commercial art. He had only been creating advertising displays for three months when he decided to take some of his drawings to Glamour magazine. Impressed with his work, Glamour commissioned him to make some drawings of shoes for an article entitled "Success Is a Job in New York." In the publication credits, the magazine mistakenly dropped the "a" from Warhola, and thus Andy Warhola became Andy Warhol. By the mid-1950s Warhol was one of the best-paid commercial artists in New York, with clients such as Tiffany's, I. Miller shoes, Vogue, and Bonwit Teller.
By 1960 Warhol was financially secure and ready to give up his career in commercial art for something new. So he jumped into—and in many ways helped create—the Pop Art movement. Pop Art was a revolt against the Abstract Expressionist style, which uses blended images intended to stretch the imagination. Pop Art, on the other hand, offers instantly recognizable images of far less serious subjects.
Warhol painted comic book characters such as Dick Tracy, Popeye, and Superman. He also painted everyday objects of various kinds, including Coca-Cola bottles, Campbell soup cans, and money. In addition, he did memorable portraits of actress Marilyn Monroe and singer Elvis Presley. After opening exhibitions in 1962 in Los Angeles and New York featuring his now famous "Campbell Soup Cans," Warhol became the dominant symbol of Pop Art culture.
In the early 1960s Warhol opened a studio known as the Factory where he and his assistants perfected silk-screening techniques that enabled him to produce identical prints in mass quantities. He also created numerous experimental movies at the Factory. So-called "underground" films such as Sleep and Eat were deliberately boring and ordinary, and sometimes ran for up to 24 hours. His movie Empire, for instance, which was released in 1965, featured New York City's Empire State Building viewed from the same unmoving camera angle over an eight-hour period.
The Factory soon became a center of pop culture, attracting a wide variety of people from both the art and performing worlds. Warhol used some of these people in his movies and liked to refer to them as his "superstars." Drug use was common among those who frequented the Factory, but Warhol himself rarely participated.
Warhol released numerous movies during the late 1960s and 1970s. In 1968 he dealt with the taboo subject of homosexuality in his film Lonesome Cowboys. He also produced two films that are considered early examples of modern pornographic filmmaking, Flesh (1968) and Trash (1970). In 1974 he generated some commercial interest with his movies Andy Warhol's Frankenstein and Andy Warhol's Dracula. In total, he was involved in more than 60 film projects between 1963 and 1974.
Warhol was also part of the rock music scene thanks to his involvement with a rock band known as the Velvet Underground, formed by Lou Reed and John Cale. He introduced model and actress Nico to the band members, and she ended up singing on their debut album. Warhol traveled the country with the Velvet Underground and later developed and produced a spectacular multimedia light show called "The Exploding Plastic Inevitable" that featured the band.
Toward the end of the 1960s, Warhol dabbled in publishing as co-founder of Interview magazine. It enjoyed a good deal of success during the 1970s. By then, however, Warhol had turned over the reins to someone else, eager to move on to his next project. He was also associated in some way with nine books during his career. One of the most popular was The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, which was published in 1975.
In 1968 Warhol's life almost came to a violent end when Valerie Solanis, a member of his entourage, shot him in the chest and abdomen at point-blank range. The artist survived, but only after spending two months in the hospital. Solanis turned herself in to authorities and was placed in a mental hospital. Later, she was sentenced to three years in prison.
During the 1970s, Warhol continued with his painting, focusing mostly on portraits of famous people and personal friends. Meanwhile, he remained at the center of pop culture and the art community throughout the last decade of his life. Ironically, however, it was death that brought him his greatest fame. Warhol succumbed unexpectedly to heart failure on February 22, 1987, after undergoing routine gall bladder surgery. His funeral, held in New York City, was a major event. According to a New Yorker correspondent, "There were so many celebrities among the more than 2,000 mourners that traffic on Fifth Avenue was disrupted by spectators and photographers trying to get a glimpse of them. No other twentieth-century artist—not even Picasso—could have drawn this sort of crowd, and it is difficult to think of any other public personality who could have done so, either."
Chronology: Andy Warhol
1949: Entered field of commercial art.
1956: Drawings featured in shows at the Bodley Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art.
1957: Shoe advertisement won the Art Directors' Club Medal.
1960: Joined the Pop Art movement.
1962: Opened exhibitions in Los Angeles and New York featuring paintings of Campbell soup cans.
1963: Films Sleep and Eat were released.
1968: Film Flesh was released.
1974: Films Andy Warhol's Dracula and Andy Warhol's Frankenstein were released.
1975: The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again published.
Social and Economic Impact
While the long-term relevance of Warhol's work may be subject to dispute, his impact on the pop culture of his time is not. He offered the public something they had never experienced before, creating seemingly emotionless works based on the most mundane things in life. Even when he depicted emotionally charged or tragic events, such as his "Disaster" scenes of automobile accidents, electric chairs, and race riots, he somehow rendered them without a hint of passion. At first, some observers dismissed them as tacky and heartless. Later interpretations acknowledged the "Disaster" works as critical statements about the offhanded inhumanity prevalent in a society where people commonly witness tragedy without feeling or emotion.
Andy Warhol captured the attention of an entire generation. Some worshipped his every painting, picture, movie, and appearance. Others called him vulgar, strange, or just inconsequential. During the late 1960s and through the 1970s, Warhol was the dominant symbol of the American counterculture. In an article published in Esquire magazine, Julie Baumgold, a woman who knew Warhol, offered the following reflections on him and his era: "[It] was a time of leather plants and dresses that swung or hung stiffly and parties with plastic chairs and red lights . . . . Then, too, there were large plastic Baggies of pills and people with painted faces and raccoon eyes, jabbing needles through their jeans, moving in slow motion through curtains of beads . . . . And through it all there was Andy Warhol, slumped on a sofa, the absent soul, watching, always watching, taping, always taping."
Since his death, there has been a tremendous amount of interest in the meaning of Warhol's life and work. Was he simply the "absent soul" who surrounded himself with the excesses of his time? Or was his very immersion in the modern culture somehow his strongest indictment against it? Answers to those questions continue to provoke debate.
Sources of Information
Baumgold, Julie. "Andy, Candy, and Me." Esquire, May 1996.
Contemporary Authors. Vol. 121. Detroit: Gale Research, 1987.
Current Biography Yearbook: 1968. New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 1968.
Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998.
Garraty, John A. and Jerome L. Sternstein, eds. Encyclopedia of American Biography. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.
Hackett, Pat, ed. The Andy Warhol Diaries. New York: Warner Books, 1989.
New Yorker, 27 April 1987.
Pandiscio, Richard. "Andy and Candy." Interview, April 1996.
Powell, Alison. "Crazy About Andy." Interview, April 1996.
Andy Warhol (ca. 1927-1987) was a pioneer American pop artist and film maker. His paintings of Campbell soup cans and other mundane objects both piqued and delighted the art public and brought him fame.
Andy Warhol liked to shroud himself in mystery. "I never give my background, and anyway, I make it all up differently every time I'm asked," he said. His exact birth date and place only add to this mystery. Warhol (born Andrew Warhola) provided no information on the matter, so any definitive statement is subject to question. Based on his early years and college dates, it is estimated he was born in 1927 in Forest City, Pennsylvania, the son of a construction worker and miner from Czechoslovakia. He attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh (1945-1949), receiving a bachelor of fine arts degree in pictorial design.
In 1949 Warhol arrived in New York City, where he made a meager living in advertising display work. He took some of his drawings to Glamour magazine and received a commission to make drawings of shoes. These were published and admired; he then worked for a shoe chain. In 1957 a shoe advertisement brought him the Art Directors' Club Medal. His work appeared in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar magazines, and in 1959 he exhibited his gold shoe drawings in a New York City gallery.
In 1960 Warhol began painting pictures with no commercial market in mind. He did a series on comic strips such as Dick Tracy, Popeye, Superman and the Little King. His paintings of Coca Cola bottles and Campbell soup cans, arranged in seemingly endless rows, were ridiculed when they were first shown. He created paintings of money and silk-screen portraits of Marilyn Monroe. His second New York show in 1962 was a critical success and perfectly timed, as pop art was just becoming an acceptable art form. His fascination with silk screen as an instrument for mass production led him to open a studio, dubbed The Factory, where he later made his films.
The Factory became a center for pop and would-be pop stars. It attracted a wide variety of glamorous people and an assortment of characters in the art and performing worlds. Although many of Warhol's films, such as Sleep (1963), Eat (1963), and Empire (1965), were lengthy depictions of the most mundane activity or object, some of his works anticipated future film themes or ridiculed certain subjects. Lonesome Cowboys (1968) treated homosexuality when it was taboo as a subject for commercial films and, at the same time, challenged the cowboy myth of courageous, macho riders of the range. With such works as Flesh (1968) and Trash (1970), Warhol focused on sexual themes. These were the forerunners of the pornographic film market of the 1970s and 1980s. By the mid-1970s his Andy Warhol's Dracula (1974) and Andy Warhol's Frankenstein (1974) enjoyed commercial success as satiric yet serious works. From 1963 to 1974, he had been involved in the production of more than sixty films of varying quality and subject matter.
Warhol and other pop artists drew their inspiration and imagery from popular culture, but they heightened the color and changed the scale to make the images larger than life. In doing so they redefined pictorial realism and extended its concept. Warhol's imagery can be classified in four broad categories: commercial products such as Brillo boxes and Heinz ketchup bottles, personality portraits of celebrities, modes of exchange such as trading stamps and bills, and disaster pictures of automobile accidents, electric chairs, gangster funerals and race riots.
In 1968 Warhol's celebrity status nearly cost him his life. A disturbed visitor to The Factory shot him, inflicting serious internal wounds. Warhol's slow recovery included a two-month hospital stay and a turn to a new direction, his post-Pop period. From 1970 onward, he increasingly turned to producing portraits of cult figures, prominent persons, and personal friends. These portraits, of figures such as Mao Tse-tung, Philip Johnson, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Carter, and Merce Cunningham display a softer, more delicate imagery than Warhol's earlier Pop Art paintings. His art of the 1970s moved closer to an abstract expressionist style and away from the figurative or realistic style of his work in the 1960s.In 1981 he undertook a series of myth paintings in which the subject matter treated mythical figures from popular culture sources, such as advertisements, comic strips and films. These works included Dagwood, Mickey Mouse, and Superman. Later in 1983 he created a series of endangered species paintings which depicted various threatened wild-life. As in all of his work, Warhol selected subjects with great popular imagery and treated the symbol and image as much as he does the real object itself.
As a social commentator (a role he denied), Warhol had the uncanny ability to mirror the trends and fads of his time. Recognizing the elements of an urban mass society heavily influenced by symbols, images, and the mass media, he made those symbols and images the subjects of his art. For Warhol and other Pop artists, these images have taken on a reality of their own. They were not only shaped by but also reshaped popular culture. Warhol left social and cultural historians visual documents of the significant elements from America's consumerist society of the postwar era—an important legacy.
Warhol died of heart failure hours after undergoing gall bladder surgery on February 22, 1987, in New York City.
Warhol's The Index Book (1970) is an entertaining selection of photographs, mostly of Warhol and his retinue. The most rewarding book on Warhol is John Coplans, Andy Warhol (1970), which includes a biographical sketch by Calvin Tomkins, a study and catalog of Warhol's films by Jonas Mekas, and a comprehensive selection of illustrations. See also Pat Hackett's Andy Warhol Diaries (1991). □