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Andy Warhol

one of the most prolific and well-known artists in art history

Andy Warhol

Andrew Warhola was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on August 6, 1928. He attended Holmes Elementary School and Schenley High School before entering Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in 1945; he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Pictorial Design in 1949. It was while in college that he dropped the final "a" from his last name.

Commercial Artist

After college Warhol moved to New York City, New York, to pursue a career as a commercial artist. Unlike many other artists, he found success almost immediately. His first commercial work appeared in Glamour magazine in September 1949. Throughout the 1950's, he became one of the most successful illustrators of his time, working for such clients as Tiffany & Co., The New York Times, I. Miller Shoes, Bonwit Teller, Columbia Records, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Fleming-Joffe, NBC, and others. Much of his commercial work was based on photographs and other source images, a technique he would employ in a vast majority of his future works. He had his first one-man show exhibition at the Hugo Gallery in New York City, in 1952. In 1956 he had an important group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. His career was just getting started.


Warhol spent part of 1956 traveling the world, after which he began to devote more energy to painting. He made his first "Pop Art" paintings, based on comics and ads, in 1961. He first exhibited in an art gallery in 1962, when the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles showed his 32 Campbell's Soup Cans. Warhol spent the better part of the next six years painting. It was during this period that he created a large series of celebrity portraits, including Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor. He also created a series of "death and disaster" paintings, including images of electric chairs, suicides, and car crashes. Although he had turned to other pursuits by the end of the 1960's, he never put down his paint brush for very long. By the time of his death, Andy Warhol was one of the most prolific and well-known painters in art history. Warhol mass-produced many of his now famous images by means of photographic silk screen prints.

one of Warhol's Campbell's Soup Can paintings

Marilyn Monroe, by Warhol


Warhol's first exhibition of sculptures was held in 1964, with hundreds of replicas of large supermarket product boxes -- Brillo Boxes, Heinz Boxes, Del Monte Boxes, Mott's Boxes, Kellogg's Boxes, etc. In 1970, he made three versions of a sculpture called Rain Machine (Daisy Waterfall) -- a large shower of water in front of a wall of 3-D lenticular prints of daisies -- for the Osaka World's Fair.

Movie Producer

Warhol began making films in 1963, and by 1976 had made some 600 of them. These included the avant-garde classics Sleep (1963), Empire (1963), Kiss (1963-64), My Hustler (1965), and The Chelsea Girls (1966), as well as the twenty-five-hour-long film ***** (aka Four Stars, 1967-68).

Video Artist

In 1965, Warhol became the first artist to exhibit video as art. He eventually filled some 2,500 videotapes, including Factory Diaries, Phoney, and others.


Warhol published a large series of artist's books in the 1950's, but his first mass-produced book, Andy Warhol's Index (Book), was published in 1967. Subsequent books included a, a novel (1968), Blue Movie (1970), THE Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) (1975), Exposures (1979), POPism (1980), Children's Book (1983), and America (1985). Party Book (1988) and The Diaries of Andy Warhol (1989) were published posthumously.

Warhol was also the author of a stage play, Pork, which was produced in London, England, and New York in 1971.

The Factory

Founded by Warhol in 1962, The Factory was an art studio where Warhol employed "art workers" to mass produce prints, posters, and other items he designed. By the mid-1960's, The Factory had become the place to be in New York City. Parties held there were talked about in gossip columns throughout the country. The studio was also the set for about 300 of his films.

The Velvet Underground

Broadening his activities into the realm of performance art, Warhol toured the country with a multimedia show called The Exploding Plastic Inevitable, which featured the rock band The Velvet Underground. The show has since been credited with being the forerunner of psychedelic light shows as nightclub entertainment. The Velvet Underground went on to become one of the most influential rock bands of its day.

Near-Death Experience

On June 3, 1968, Valerie Solanas, a writer who had appeared in Warhol's film I, a Man (1967), walked into The Factory and shot Warhol in the chest three times. The shooting left him so close to death that the emergency room doctors were ready to sign his death certificate, but a five-hour operation saved his life. While recuperating, he painted a large series of portraits of Happy Rockefeller, the wife of Nelson Rockefeller, then Governor of New York. Solanas turned herself in and spent time in a mental hospital, plus three years in prison, in "payment" for her crime.

Other Notable Works and Achievements

Raid the Icebox I In 1969, the Rhode Island School of Design invited Warhol to design an exhibition using pieces from its museum collection. Rather than the usual masterpieces, Warhol used damaged paintings in the process of being repaired, the museum's entire collection of historical footwear and parasols, and other "mundane" items.

In 1969, Warhol co-founded Interview, a magazine devoted to film, fashion, and popular culture. It continues to this day.

In 1971, Warhol co-designed the cover for The Rolling Stones' album Sticky Fingers. It featured a close-up photo of the torso of a man wearing blue jeans, with a real working zipper. The design earned him a Grammy nomination, as well as commissions for many more album covers.

In 1974, Warhol began filling cardboard boxes with the materials of his everyday life -- mail, photos, art, clothing, collectibles, etc. By the time of his death he had filled more than 600 Time Capsules.

Andy Warhol's Fifteen Minutes and Andy Warhol's TV aired nationally on MTV in the mid-1980's. He also created work for Saturday Night Live, appeared in an episode of The Love Boat, and produced music videos for rock bands such as The Cars.

Death and Legacy

Andy Warhol died in New York City on February 22, 1987, due to complications following gall bladder surgery.

In 1988, a ten-day auction of his enormous personal art and antique collection raised over $20 million for The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The Andy Warhol Museum opened in Pittsburgh in 1994.


The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
The Andy Warhol Museum
American Masters

See Also

New York City
Osaka World's Fair
Nelson Rockefeller

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The Robinson Library >> Art History: United States

This page was last updated on 10/04/2018.