Andy Warhol’s Life and Career
Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 6, 1928. His family were immigrants from Carpatho-Rusyn, which is now known as Eastern Slovakia (Andy Warhol’s Life). Warhol’s family was a religious one, being devout Catholics, they attended mass regularly and kept to their heritage (Andy Warhol’s Life). When he was six years old, they moved to a South Oakland neighborhood to be closer to the church they attended, St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic (Andy Warhol’s Life). Warhol’s childhood was not all that easy, he suffered from a neurological disorder called Sydenham chorea, also known as St. Vitus dance. This caused him to have severe fevers and involuntary movements in his limbs (Sydenham Chorea Information Page). When his symptoms would act up, causing him to stay home from school, he would spend his time in magazines and comics playing with cutouts (Andy Warhol’s Life). Due to the time period, he grew up in the midst of a dying economy accompanied by many struggling families, including his. Apart from the struggle, when Warhol was just eight years old his family bought him his first camera, and thus his artistic journey began.
Warhol started taking free art classes at what is now the Carnegie Museum of Art, taught by Joseph Fitzpatrick (Andy Warhol’s Life). His father, Andrej, started saving money for Warhol’s college education after realizing his son’s talent. Thus, he went on to graduate from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now known as Carnegie Mellon University, in 1949 (Andy Warhol’s Life). After graduating, he moved to New York City and dropped the “a” in Warhola, becoming Andy Warhol (Andy Warhol’s Life). His first work, an illustrated story, would appear in a 1949 Glamour magazine issue titled “What is Success?” (Andy Warhol’s Life). From then on he would become an award-winning illustrator and work with clients including; Miller shoes, Tiffany & Co, Columbia Records, and Vogue (Andy Warhol’s Life).
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Andy Warhol interested me because of the art he chose to capture, and the issues he interpreted throughout them. I think what draws me towards his work the most, is that it is still very relevant in today’s society. His pieces bring up powerful points on plastic surgery procedures and being unhappy with our physical appearance. Along with the dilemma we face trying to find constant perfection. These added meanings really expose the insecurity issues that are maybe even more so, struggled with by the people of today. Warhol is also a very vibrant artist, catching the eye of his audience easily by the use of his neon Pop Art prints. Examples include the famous Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s tomato soup can piece’s. Finally, Andy Warhol interested me most among the other artists because of the fact that he wasn’t just an artist, but an author, film director, and entrepreneur as well.
The time period of his artwork began in the 1950s to the mid-1980s. Before passing away in 1987, he made his last series of art, featuring multiple vibrant and large self-portraits (Andy Warhol’s Life). The art style’s he practiced included Pop Art and Modern Art. These forms were practiced in the 1860s-1970s, with Pop Art becoming a popular style in the 1950s. His mediums mainly consisted of paintings, screen printing, photography, and printmaking (Andy Warhol Overview and Analysis).
One of Warhol’s most notable technique’s was his artwork consisting of silk screen printing. A process in which the artist takes mesh and transfers ink onto a screen using a stencil (What Is Silkscreen Printing). This technique allowed him to create large and vibrant prints of objects, people, and himself. In addition, perhaps Warhol’s most identifiable artworks were created using a technique he had generated all on his own. This technique, he called the blotted-line technique allowed him to create repetition at a fast pace (Andy Warhol’s Life). This process was created by combining printmaking and drawing, practicing a different approach on each copy (Andy Warhol’s Life). Moreover, it brought emphasis back on his interests in commercial manufacturing and mass production (Andy Warhol’s Life).
Andy Warhol had many influencers that formed who he was and how he constructed his career, composed of artists, personal friends, and art movements. Warhol looked up to famous artists including Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Gilbert and George, Stella Vine, and Christopher Wool (Andy Warhol Overview and Analysis). The movements that he directed his attention towards included Pop Art, Installation Art, Video Art, and Neo-Expressionism (Andy Warhol Overview and Analysis). Despite his religious background, Warhol did not capture religious perspectives in his works. In Fact, he more so went against the beliefs of the church through his pronouncement of homosexuality in his pieces. Which became an influence that he chose to represent and take a stand for in his works.
Fortunately for Warhol, his artwork never went unnoticed and left an endowment of many famous pieces behind. But perhaps a few of his most famous pieces incorporate; Campbell’s Soup Cans, Shot Marilyns, and Marilyn Diptych. The Campbell’s soup piece was chosen by Warhol for its aspect of consumer culture. During 1962, Campbell’s had 32 different soup flavors, thus Warhol created 32 canvases to match (MoMA Learning). He also chose the canvases all to be of the tomato soup flavor based on the fact that it was the first flavor Campbell’s created, in 1897 (MoMA Learning). The Placement he chose for these paintings was to display them on shelves as if sold at a grocery store like they normally would be. He said his motivation behind it was his vast interest in mass production and advertising. Warhol also commented on the piece saying that “I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day, for 20 years, I guess, the same thing over and over again” (MoMA Learning). Additionally, the Shot Marilyns production was created to be a Pop Art piece that exemplifies the beauty within morbid concepts (Animals | Causes of Color). This work is also another example of his love for mass production, but with a twist. One of his onlookers in the factory, Dorothy Podfer, asked to shoot the bright Marilyns (Andy Warhol Shot Marilyns). Warhol agreed, thinking she meant to photograph them, but instead was left startled when she pulled out a small revolver and fired a shot at the paintings (Andy Warhol Shot Marilyns). The motivation behind this artwork was the idea behind being “a machine” (Andy Warhol Overview and Analysis). And bringing his infatuation with pop culture, mixed with his love for the factory production lines. Finally, Warhol’s work of the Marilyn Diptych. This work changes when it comes to his suggestion behind it. Although it shows the familiar idea of mass production, it also brings different meanings with it. Warhol created this painting to be two silver canvases with the silkscreen technique. But instead of referring to factory produced products, he alludes to Christian artworks (Warhol, Marilyn Diptych). Much like the Diptych with the Virgin and Child Enthroned and the Crucifixion piece. The Marilyn Diptych was created to bring emphasis on worship, only the worship of pop culture. As well as invite us to exalt the icon, Marilyn Monroe (Warhol, Marilyn Diptych). However, he explained that he was not motivated by pop culture when creating this piece, but rather art history and the popular art in New York (Warhol, Marilyn Diptych).
The Influence of these pieces in the world around them; The Campbell’s piece became a large influence during its debut time. Not only because of the relevance and popularity of being a commonly consumed soup at the time. But, because of how it changed the media and even the fashion industry around it. After debuting the 32 pieces, the paintings started out not so popular. However, this changed when Irving Blum, a gallery owner from Los Angeles, purchased these paintings and resold them as individuals (McCorquodale). The entire year became molded around his work, from influencing consumer style fashion, to even Campbell’s creating a statement dress of their own (McCorquodale). Before the public knew it, soup can dresses were worn to high-society affairs everywhere (McCorquodale). The Campbell’s piece still holds its relevance today. From rippling through the fashion industry and influencing collections from high-end designers, to becoming one of the Museum of Modern Art’s largest beloved exhibits. When it comes to the Marilyn Diptych piece; this piece was influential because of Marilyn’s career. Marilyn Monroe had both a big rise and fall during her time as a pop icon. Andy Warhol captured this by his use of bright colored photographs aside black and white photographs of her. This showed her life and death as an influencer and how her face had become a commodity among tabloids. It is a relevant piece, due to who she was and still is in the world of famous influencers today. Finally, the Shot Marilyns piece was an influencer not just because of who the focal point was. But because it also brought to light the brightness of Hollywood, as well as the gore hidden behind some icons stories. Marilyn Monroe’s career ended when she committed suicide in 1962, this painting with the bullet holes through it somewhat represents that. It brings about bright colors to show happiness and big personality, while also bringing a subtle disturbance featuring the bullet hole through her forehead. This work is still very much relevant today based off of the muse and the story behind it.
Financially, Andy Warhol was very successful during his time. Known as the most successful and highest paid illustrator in New York (Andy Warhol Overview and Analysis). He became apart of many industries from film, to commercials, art, books, and fashion, hardly anyone today does not recognize the name, Andy Warhol. When it comes to critical recognition he doesn’t fall short either. Andy Warhol is praised for his use of techniques that he invented, as well as being an out homosexual in the 1960s (Spencer). His work holds an important place in history while reminding us of historical events, people, and time periods (Spencer). Many today still agree that his work has changed the way people view these events, and has become a major part of the 1945 artist production (Spencer). His success is accounted for by his effect on the people around him, and his significant staples in the many industries he entered into. He was an inspiration to various fashion designers, artists, and writers. Another way you can see Warhol’s success, is through his artwork and how desired it is today. His piece 60 Last Suppers, was recently sold in 2017 for $60.8 million (Sussman).
Today Warhol’s art plays an important role in the history of Pop Art and has become a motion in religious art (O’Brien). Many artists who gained fame during the 80s, did so because they practiced Warhol’s techniques. Including processes such as; large Pop Art prints, referencing consumer goods, and factory-like produced works (O’Brien). Another way he played an important role in art history is through his teachings about business through art (O’Brien). He used maddening statements that went against beliefs of the public, to express his own truths and direction. Many onlookers called him a corporate artist, due to his ability to create new and innovative art forms, as well as doing so alongside business smart tactics.
Andy Warhol was not just an amazing artist and entrepreneur. His life was just as captivating as his pieces. Some things that set Warhol apart from others included; His interest in film and music creation aside from art. He created 60 films and assisted a band called the Velvet Underground (Art History and Artists). He believed that “good business is the best art” and combined the two throughout his career (Art History and Artists). Warhol was born into a family of Slovakian immigrants and his birth date was never recorded (Art History and Artists). Being the comical man he was, he would consistently make up a new birth date for himself, as well as stories from his childhood during interviews (Art History and Artists). He was shot three times by a feminist named Valerie Solanis in 1968 and survived (Art History and Artists). Eventually, when Warhol did pass it was due to complications after a gallbladder surgery in 1987.
Finally, Andy Warhol was and is an inspiration to people all over the world, in all walks of life. Whether or not his story is known, his name, art, and impact will forever be recognized. I believe I have achieved my goal of learning about the amazing work of Andy Warhol.