American Painter, Draftsman, Filmmaker, and Printmaker
New York City
Summary of Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol was the most successful and highly paid commercial illustrator in New York even before he began to make art destined for galleries. Nevertheless, his screenprinted images of Marilyn Monroe, soup cans, and sensational newspaper stories, quickly became synonymous with Pop art. He emerged from the poverty and obscurity of an Eastern European immigrant family in Pittsburgh, to become a charismatic magnet for bohemian New York, and to ultimately find a place in the circles of High Society. For many his ascent echoes one of Pop art's ambitions, to bring popular styles and subjects into the exclusive salons of high art. His crowning achievement was the elevation of his own persona to the level of a popular icon, representing a new kind of fame and celebrity for a fine artist.
- Warhol's early commercial illustration has recently been acclaimed as the arena in which he first learned to manipulate popular tastes. His drawings were often comic, decorative, and whimsical, and their tone is entirely different from the cold and impersonal mood of his Pop art.
- Much debate still surrounds the iconic screenprinted images with which Warhol established his reputation as a Pop artist in the early 1960s. Some view his Death and Disaster series, and his Marilyn pictures, as frank expressions of his sorrow at public events. Others view them as some of the first expressions of 'compassion fatigue' - the way the public loses the ability to sympathize with events from which they feel removed. Still others think of his pictures as screens - placed between us and horrifying events - which attempt to register and process shock.
- Although artists had drawn on popular culture throughout the 20th century, Pop art marked an important new stage in the breakdown between high and low art forms. Warhol's paintings from the early 1960s were important in pioneering these developments, but it is arguable that the diverse activities of his later years were just as influential in expanding the implications of Pop art into other spheres, and further eroding the borders between the worlds of high art and popular culture.
- Although Warhol would continue to create paintings intermittently throughout his career, in 1965 he "retired" from the medium to concentrate on making experimental films. Despite years of neglect, these films have recently attracted widespread interest, and Warhol is now seen as one of the most important filmmakers of the period, a forefather of independent film.
- Critics have traditionally seen Warhol's career as going into decline in 1968, after he was shot by Valerie Solanas. Valuing his early paintings above all, they have ignored the activities that absorbed his attention in later years - parties, collecting, publishing, and painting commissioned portraits. Yet some have begun to think that all these ventures make up Warhol's most important legacy because they prefigure the diverse interests, activities, and interventions that occupy artists today.
Biography of Andy Warhol
Warhol famously said that "business art is the step that comes after Art. I started as a commercial artist, and I want to finish as a business artist." He became one of the world most successful artists, and made screen prints, sculptures, films, managed a band, and even designed wallpaper - projects that were often highly lucrative (and always built his brand).
Important Art by Andy Warhol
By the 1960s, the New York art world was in a rut, the very original and popular canvases of the Abstract Expressionists of the 1940s and '50s had become cliche. Warhol was one of the artists that felt the need to bring back imagery into his work. The gallery owner and interior designer Muriel Latow gave Warhol the idea of painting soup cans, when she suggested to him that he should paint objects that people use every day (it is rumored that Warhol ate the soup for lunch every single day). He painted Campbell's soup cans, Brillo boxes, and Coca-Cola bottles from 1962, onward.
Warhol started his career and became an extremely successful consumer ad designer. Here, he used the techniques of his trade to create an image that is both easily recognizable, but also visually stimulating. Consumer goods and ad imagery were flooding the lives of Americans with the prosperity of that age and Warhol set out to subtly recreate that abundance, via images found in advertising. He recreated on canvas the experience of being in a supermarket. So, Warhol is credited with envisioning a new type of art that glorified (and also criticized) the consumption habits of his contemporaries and consumers today.
"I just paint things I always thought were beautiful, things you use every day and never think about." Warhol's statement epitomizes his ethos; his works put ordinary items front and center. This idea applies to the hand-painted portrait of a Coca-Cola bottle. Another challenge to the domination of Abstract Expressionism, Warhol's Coca-Cola is equal in size to many of the popular canvases of the time (6ft x 5ft) but is devoid of their abstractions. However, there are some other similarities here. As in Robert Motherwell's popular Stations of the Cross series of works, Coca-Cola is comprised of a large, black mass on a white background. The bottle jumps out at the viewer; demanding the kind of attention Motherwell's profound canvases received - yet now the sense of irony reigns.
After her sudden death from an overdose of sleeping pills in August 1962, superstar Marilyn Monroe's life, career, and tragedy became a worldwide obsession. Warhol, being infatuated with fame and pop culture, obtained a black-and-white publicity photo of her (from her 1953 film Niagara) and used the photo to create several series of images. A common idea to all the Marilyn works was that her image was reproduced over and over again as one would find it reprinted in newspapers and magazines at the time. After viewing dozens, or hundreds of such images, a viewer stops seeing a person depicted, but is left with an icon of popular, consumer culture. The image (and the person) become another cereal box on the supermarket shelf, one of hundreds of boxes - which are all exactly the same.
In Gold Marilyn Monroe, Warhol further plays on the idea iconography, placing Marilyn's face on a very large golden-colored background. The background is remeniscent of Byzantine religious icons that are the central focus in Orthodox faiths to this day. Only instead of a god, we are looking at an image (that becomes a bit garish upon closer inspection) of a woman that rose to fame and died in horrible tragedy. Warhol subtly comments on our society, and its glorification of celebrities to the level of the divine. Here again the Pop artist uses common objects and images to make very pointed insights into the values and surroundings of his contemporaries.
Influences and Connections
Useful Resources on Andy Warhol
- Andy Warhol (1973)Our PickTrailer. Directed by Lana Jokel, Produced by Michael Blackwood Productions
- 37k viewsWarhol by BaileyDocumentary made by David Bailey, a contemporary. The film is an attempt to capture the spirit of Warhol using some of the techniques he has pioneered
- 189k viewsAndy Warhol: A Master of the Modern EraWarhol's impact on the art world by British art critic Alastair Sooke
- 855k viewsAndy Warhol & Edie Sedgwick on The Merv Griffin Show, 1965Our PickEntertaining show where Warhol reacts to questions of popular art and emotion in art-making
- 133k viewsWarhol Interview (1966)Interview where Warhol is not being very communicable. Includes video of Warhol creating a silk-screen print
- 463k viewsWarhol Interview (1971)Short clip mentioning Pop art and comic books
- 39k viewsWarhol in Miami (1980)For the exhibition "Jews of the 20th Century" at Lowe Art Museum
- Warhol Thrilled by Wrestling (1985)
- 543 viewsDr. Brad Collins @ Columbia Museum of ArtGood overview lecture, especially the discussion of Chairman Mao series
- 736 viewsCritic Christopher Knight @ Smithsonian American Art MuseumOur PickPointing out that Warhol's subjects are often chosen for their very particular, art specific themes
- 2k viewsSoup Cans and Early Reproductions
- 11k viewsWarhol's Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) (1963)A Conversation with Sir John Richardson
- 290k viewsAndy Warhol & William S. Burroughs Have Dinner at the Chelsea Hotel (1980)Satirical video of writer William Borroughs and Andy Warhol eating together at the Chelsea Hotel where Andy Warhol is famous for his work with "Chelsea Girls," also featuring the singer Nico
- Andy Warhol Eating a HamburgerAndy Warhol eats a Burger King Whopper with Heinz Ketchup
- 14k viewsScene from Chelsea Girls (1966)Film shot in the famous Chelsea Hotel
- 148k viewsFlesh (1968) (Trailer)The famous film stars Joe Dallesandro, directed by Paul Morrissey, and produced by Warhol
- 200k viewsLonesome Cowboys (1968)SF International Film Festival award-winning film highlighting Warhol's homoeroticism
- 10k viewsEdie SedgwickOur PickHer life with and after Warhol
- 336k viewsTake a Walk on the Wild Side: The Warhol SuperstarsOur PickThe group of famous New York stars that Warhol promoted in his films
- 101k viewsLou Reed about Velvet Underground and Andy WarholOur PickLou Reed recalls working in the Pop art era and with Andy Warhol
- 52k viewsDavid Bowie: On Andy Warhol (1987)
- WarholBy David Bourdon
- Factory Made: Warhol and the SixitesOur PickBy Steven Watson
- The Life and Death of Andy WarholBy Victor Bockris
- Andy Warhol Close UpBy Bob Colacello
- The Religious Art of Andy WarholBy Jane Daggett Dillenberger, Andy Warhol
- The Philosophy of Andy WarholOur Pick
- I'll Be Your Mirror
- The Andy Warhol Diaries
- The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne Vol. 1: Paintings and Sculpture 1961-1963
- Andy Warhol Treasures
- Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonne 1962-1987
- Andy Warhol: The Record Covers 1949-1987, Catalogue RaisonneOur Pick
- The Andy Warhol MuseumOur PickBased in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Andy Warhol Museum houses the largest collection of the artist's works
- The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual ArtsEstablished in 1987, its purpose is for the advancement of the visual arts
- Warholstars.comFeaturing Warhol's films, art and superstars
- The Andy Warhol Family AlbumInformation on Andy's early life and family
- Warhol as FilmmakerBy David Bourdon / Art in America / May/June 1971
- Man for the MachineOur PickBy Robert Hughes / Time Magazine / May 17, 1971
- The First Word on PopBy Barbara A. MacAdam / Art News / November 2007
- Much More Than Fifteen MinutesBy Tyler Maroney / Art News / January 2002
- Prince of Boredom: The Repetitions and Passivity's of Andy WarholBy William S. Wilson / Art and Artists / March 1968
- Ric Burns interview of Andy Warhol for PBS
- Inside Andy WarholBy Ned Finkelstein / Cavalier Magazine / September 1966
- Factory Girl, 2007A movie directed by George Hickenlooper which focused on Edie Sedgwick, a socialite that was a close friend to Andy Warhol and also a Warholstar. The movie focuses on her and Andy's relationship.
- I Shot Andy Warhol, 1996Film based on the true story of Valerie Solanas who was a 60s radical and ultimately shot Warhol.