Who Was Andy Warhol?
Andy Warhol was a successful magazine and ad illustrator who became a leading artist of the 1960s Pop art movements. He ventured into a wide variety of art forms, including performance art, filmmaking, video installations and writing and controversially blurred the lines between fine art and mainstream aesthetics. Warhol died on February 22, 1987, in New York City.
Born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928, in the neighborhood of Oakland in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Warhol’s parents were Slovakian immigrants. His father, Andrej Warhola, was a construction worker, while his mother, Julia Warhola, was an embroiderer. They were devout Byzantine Catholics who attended mass regularly and maintained much of their Slovakian culture and heritage while living in one of Pittsburgh’s Eastern European ethnic enclaves.
At the age of eight, Warhol contracted Chorea—also known as St. Vitus’s Dance — a rare and sometimes fatal disease of the nervous system that left him bedridden for several months. It was during these months, while Warhol was sick in bed, that his mother, herself a skillful artist, gave him his first drawing lessons. Drawing soon became Warhol’s favorite childhood pastime. He was also an avid fan of movies, and when his mother bought him a camera at the age of nine, he took up photography as well, developing film in a makeshift darkroom he set up in their basement.
Warhol attended Holmes Elementary school and took the free art classes offered at the Carnegie Institute (now the Carnegie Museum of Art) in Pittsburgh. In 1942, at the age of 14, Warhol again suffered a tragedy when his father passed away from a jaundiced liver. Warhol was so upset that he could not attend his father’s funeral, and he hid under his bed throughout the wake. Warhol’s father had recognized his son’s artistic talents, and in his will he dictated that his life savings go toward Warhol’s college education. That same year, Warhol began at Schenley High School, and upon graduating, in 1945, he enrolled at the Carnegie Institute for Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) to study pictorial design.
When he graduated from college with his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1949, Warhol moved to New York City to pursue a career as a commercial artist. It was also at this time that he dropped the “a” at the end of his last name to become Andy Warhol. He landed a job with Glamour magazine in September, and went on to become one of the most successful commercial artists of the 1950s. He won frequent awards for his uniquely whimsical style, using his own blotted line technique and rubber stamps to create his drawings.