“Pop is everything art hasn’t been for the last two decades. It’s basically a U-turn back to a representational visual communication, moving at a break-away speed…Pop is a re-enlistment in the world…It is the American Dream, optimistic, generous and naïve.” (Jim Dine). Pop art evolved in the United States and United Kingdom sometime in the mid to late 1950s. It swayed away from the traditional art themes such as morality, mythology or classic history. Pop art leaned more towards emphasizing people and common objects and turning them into art.
One of the most known pioneers of this type of art is Andy Warhol. Andrew Warhola was born on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, even though his birthdate was never recorded in a hospital. He was the son of Carpatho Ruthenian immigrants. His family immigrated to the United States early in the 1920s from what is now known as Slovakia. His father, Ondrej Warhola, worked in construction Warhol’s mother, Julia Warhola, was an embroiderer. His parents were devout Catholics and brought Andy up attending mass on a regular basis. Andy had two older brothers. His parent’s first child died before his mother and father immigrated to the states. When Andy was eight years old, he contracted a rare disease, St. Vitus’s Dance (Chorea), that affects the nervous system and can be fatal. Warhol was left bedridden for several months during this illness. While bedridden, his mother used art to entertain him. Mrs. Warhola gave him his first drawing lessons. It soon became an obsession for Andy. Other childhood hobbies included going to the movies and taking photos with the camera his mother bought for him. He even learned to develop his own film in his basement where he set up a makeshift darkroom.
Warhol suffered an emotional setback at the age of fourteen from the loss of his father. Ondrej Warhola suffered from jaundice of the liver. Andy was so disturbed from the death of his father that he did not attend the funeral. In his dad’s will it was stated that Ondrej’s life savings should go to fund Andy’s college education.
The first in his family to pursue continued education after high school, Andy attended college in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Institute of Technology. Warhol earned a degree in pictorial design. After graduation in 1949, Andy Warhol relocated to New York. At that time Andy dropped the “A” from his name and changed it from Warhola to Warhol after seeing it mistakenly misspelled in a list of credits. He took a job as a commercial illustrator. He was known as one of New York’s most sought after advertising artists. Warhol won many Art Directors Club awards for his work on LP album covers and other advertising artwork. During this time, Andy Warhol was also a popular book illustrator. Some of his more notable book illustrations included 25 Cats Named Sam and One Blue Pussy, Love Is A Pink Cake, and Wild Raspberries. (CITE)
Major fashion magazines sought out the work of Warhol. His work was seen in Glamour, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar magazines. Warhol was prolific in the illustrations of books, records, and fashion ads throughout the 1950s. During this time, he was unknowingly preparing himself for his future in the world of art.
Early the 1960s, Warhol approached a different direction with his work. He started putting more emphasis and effort into painting. At this time he offered a new concept to the art world. He called it “pop art”, which focused on massed produced commercial goods. (CITE)
Andy would take his advertising and comic strip work and call it art. This was a brand new adventure for Warhol. This was very uncommon and unconventional for this artistic time period. Many of his pieces, including the Campbell’s Soup Can piece, are still very recognizable to most Americans. Warhol also liked to use famous people as subjects of his pop art. He would repeat the same image of someone using different effects and colors. Some believed Andy was the most recognizable artist in the United States. This period, in the early sixties, was most likely his most creative time.
During this time, Warhol also experimented with filmmaking. Like in his in his paintings, Warhol’s creativity shined in his filmmaking—another platform in which he was greatly successful. Similar to his paintings, his films were bold, unconventional and a little over the top. During this time, Andy’s New York studio was referred to as “The Factory”. It was not only a place that Andy created his art and film, but, also, a hot spot for the rich and famous in New York. Warhol hosted many high society parties there while selling his art at the same time.
The lifestyle Andy was living was exactly what he had dreamt of. He desired to be rich, wealthy and recognized. It all came true for him. He also is responsible for the idea of mass production of art. Andy would have his artwork mass-produced in prints in order to make it affordable to everyone. Andy didn’t like the idea of humans being categorized into certain groups. He once said, “”How can you say one style is better than another? You ought to be able to be an Abstract Expressionist next week, or a Pop artist, or a realist, without feeling you’ve given up something. I think that would be so great, to be able to change styles. And I think that’s what’s going to happen, that’s going to be the whole new scene.”
In June of 1963, a disgruntled radical feminist writer entered Andy’s apartment and shot him in the attempt to murder him. Valerie Solanas wanted Warhol dead because she believed he was trying to take control of her life. Solanas suffered from mental illness and was delusional. The two had first encountered each other years before when she presented a script she had written to Warhol in hopes of him producing a play. He wasn’t interested in it and basically ignored her request. This upset Solanas enough to demand compensation for her work and eventually attempt to murder him.
Nineteen years after he was shot, Andy went in for a routine gallbladder surgery. Later that night, Warhol passed in his sleep after suffering from an cardiac arrhythmia. The attempted murder against Warhol did not actually kill him. However, it played a major role in the downhill slide of Warhol’s health.