Galerie Ravin
Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol

Early Life

Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928. Warhol began taking free art classes at the Carnegie Institute (now The Carnegie Museum of Art) in 1934 while living in Pittsburgh. In addition to drawing, Andy was interested in Hollywood films and he frequented the local cinema. When he was about nine years old, he received his first camera and began developing his own photos in his basement.

Andy’s father Andrej recognized his son’s talent and had saved money to pay for his college education prior to his own death. Warhol attended Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) from 1945 to 1949. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Pictorial Design with the intent of becoming a commercial illustrator. During these years he worked in the display department at a local department store.

The 1950s

After graduating from college, Warhol moved to New York City to pursue a career as a commercial artist, and his work debuted in Glamour magazine in September 1949. Warhol became one of the most successful illustrators of the 1950s, winning numerous awards. He had a unique, whimsical style of drawing that contradicted its frequent sources: traced photographs and imagery.

Warhol rewarded himself for his work by taking vacation abroad with his friend Charles Lisanby from June to August, 1956; they toured Hawaii and many countries in Asia and Europe. It was Warhol’s first trip abroad and a significant event in his life.

The 1960s – The Factory Years

In the late 1950s, Warhol began devoting more energy to painting. In 1961, he made his first Pop paintings, which he based on comics and ads. The next year marked the beginning of Warhol’s celebrity. He debuted his famous Campbell’s Soup Can series, which caused a sensation in the art world. Soon after, he began a large sequence of movie star portraits, including Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor. He also began his series of “death and disaster” paintings at that time.

Between 1963 and 1968 Warhol worked with superstar performers and others to create hundreds of films. The films were scripted and improvised, ranging from conceptual experiments and simple narratives to short portraits and sexploitation features. His works include Empire (1964), The Chelsea Girls (1966), and the Screen Tests (1964-66).

Warhol held his first sculpture exhibition in 1964. It included hundreds of replicas of large supermarket product boxes, including Brillo Boxes and Heinz Boxes. For this exhibition, he premiered his new studio, painted silver and known as “The Factory”. It became the place to be in New York; parties held there were mentioned in gossip columns throughout the country. By the mid-1960s, Warhol was a frequent presence in magazines and the media.

Warhol expanded into the realm of performance art with a traveling multimedia show called The Exploding Plastic Inevitable, which featured the rock band The Velvet Underground. In 1966, Warhol exhibited Cow Wallpaper and Silver Clouds at the Leo Castelli Gallery.

The 1970s

Warhol self-published a large series of artists’ books in the 1950s, but the first one to be mass-produced was Andy Warhol’s Index (Book), which was published in 1967. Two years later, he co-founded Interview magazine, which focused on film, fashion, and pop culture. The magazine is still in circulation today.

In 1974, Warhol started a series of Time Capsules: cardboard boxes that he filled with the materials of his everyday life, including mail, photos, art, clothing and collectibles. He produced more than 600 of them, and they now serve as an archival goldmine of his existence.

Throughout the 1970s, Warhol often socialized with celebrities like Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Truman Capote, both of whom had been important early subjects in his art. He started to receive commissions for painted portraits from wealthy socialites, musicians and film stars. Celebrity portraits developed into an important aspect of his career and a main source of income. He became a regular partygoer at Studio 54, the famous New York disco.

The 1980s

In 1984, Warhol collaborated with young artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente and Keith Haring. He returned to painting with a brush for these works, briefly abandoning the silkscreen method he had exclusively used since 1962.

During the mid-1980s his television shows, Andy Warhol’s T.V. and Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes were broadcast on New York cable television and nationally on MTV. He created work for Saturday Night Live, appeared in an episode of The Love Boat and produced music videos for rock bands, including The Cars. Warhol also signed with several modeling agencies and appeared in fashion shows and numerous print and television ads.

Warhol was a prolific artist, producing numerous works during the 1970s and 1980s. His paintings, prints, drawings and photographs from this period include: Mao, Ladies and Gentlemen, Skulls, Hammer and Sickles, Shadows, Guns, Knives, Crosses, Dollar Signs, Zeitgeist and Camouflage.

Warhol’s final two exhibitions were his series of Last Supper paintings, which were shown in Milan, and his Sewn Photos (multiple prints of identical photos sewn together in a grid), exhibited in New York. Both shows opened in January 1987, just one month before his death.

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