Andy Warhol was a renowned American artist who was the leading figure of the Pop Art Movement that emerged in the 1950s and became the dominant art movement of the time. Warhol created some of the most famous masterpieces of the twentieth century including Marilyn Diptych, Campbell’s Soup Cans and Eight Elvises. Here are 10 interesting facts about the life and achievements of the ‘Pope of Pop Art’.
#1 Andy Warhol was a hypochondriac and this affected his personality
Born on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Andy Warhol was the son of Ondrej and Julia who were immigrants from Mikova in north-eastern Slovakia. His birth name was Andrew Warhola. When Warhol was in third grade he developed chorea, a condition characterized by irregular and involuntary muscle movements. Andy became a hypochondriac and developed a fear of doctors and hospitals. He was often ill and this made him an outcast in school. He spent his time with his mother and when he was bedridden he drew, listened to the radio and collected pictures of movie stars. Later Warhol described this period of time as crucial to the development of his personality.
#2 He painted many famous people including Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley
In the 1960s Andy began making paintings of iconic American objects like dollar bills, Campbell’s Soup Cans, Coca Cola bottles, electric chairs etc. He also painted famous celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Muhammad Ali, Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor. It was during these years that Warhol founded his studio, ‘The Factory’ and gathered about him a wide range of artists, writers, musicians, and underground celebrities. His studio became a social hub in New York City. Andy Warhol worked as a commercial artist and later as a fine artist. His works display a casual approach to image making. Warhol’s style allows chance to play a role and unintentional marks and mistakes are often tolerated. This is apparent in his imagery which is full of imperfections. Warhol once said, “… when you do something exactly wrong, you always turn up something.”
#3 ‘Eight Elvises’ is the most expensive Warhol painting ever sold
Warhol created a silkscreen painting of Elvis Presley in 1963 titled ‘Eight Elvises’. A 12 foot painting of eight identical, overlapping images of Elvis Presley in cowboy attire, it is a unique painting, i.e. it was not mass produced like many of Warhol’s work. In 2008, it was sold for US$100 million to make Warhol only the fifth artist to have a painting sold for at least $100 million. The sale broke the record for a Warhol painting and the price paid for Eight Elvises is still the maximum for a painting by Warhol if you adjust for inflation.
#4 Andy was shot two days before the assassination of R.F.Kennedy
On June 3, 1968 Valerie Solanas shot Warhol three times in the chest. Valerie was an ardent feminist and thought Warhol was abusive and controlling. She was arrested the next day. Andy nearly died due to the attack. The surgeons had to open his chest and massage his heart to stimulate its movements again. He suffered the physical effects of the attack through his entire life. The shooting was not given much attention in the media because of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy two days later.
#5 Warhol used urine for his ‘piss paintings’
Andy worked in a number of media but his most famous works were created using silkscreen and lithography.He used silkscreen to create his art and to mass produce images. His famous portrait of Mao Zedong, which he created in 1973, is an example of this process. Andy Warhol also made oxidation paintings which are commonly known as Andy’s ‘piss paintings’. In these paintings the canvases were prepared with copper paint that was then oxidized with urine. Sometimes boys who came to lunch, and drank too much wine, were asked by Andy to help him with his oxidation paintings. They found it funny and even flattering to help Andy ‘paint’.
#6 In his days, he was criticized for creating art just to make money
Andy published his book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol in 1975. An idea expressed in it is – “Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art.” Warhol was often criticized for being merely ‘a business artist’. Critics called some of his work superficial, facile, commercial and lacking in depth. In hindsight however some critics have come to view Warhol’s superficiality and commerciality as “the most brilliant mirror of our times”.
#7 Warhol was gay, but was he a virgin?
Andy Warhol was openly gay. The first works that he submitted to a fine art gallery, homoerotic drawings of male nudes, were rejected for being too openly gay. All through his career, Andy produced erotic photography and drawings of male nudes. Many of his well-known works explore the complexity of sexuality and desire. Examples of such works are his portraits of Judy Garland and Elizabeth Taylor and his films: Blowjob and Lonesome Cowboys. In a 1980 interview Warhol, then 52 years old, indicated that he was a virgin. This claim of Warhol has been contradicted by one of his biographers who recounted an incident in 1960 in which Warhol was being treated for condylomata, a sexually transmitted disease.
#8 He worked in various fields
Apart from creating art, Warhol made more than 60 films, created the fashion magazine Interview, opened a night club, created two cable T.V. shows, wrote several books and was the producer of the first record album by The Velvet Underground. He also coined the widely used expression: “fifteen minutes of fame”.
#9 He knew he would die in a hospital
Andy Warhol was afraid of hospitals and he had a premonition that he would die in one. On February 22, 1987 in a New York hospital, Andy Warhol died in his sleep due to a sudden post-operative heart attack. He was making good recovery from a routine gallbladder surgery. His family sued the hospital for inadequate care and said the staff overloaded him with fluids. The suit was settled in 1991 for an undisclosed amount. Warhol had stated in his will that his entire estate, except a few legacies to family members, would go to create a foundation dedicated to the “advancement of the visual arts”. Hence Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was founded in 1987.
#10 Warhol is one of the the most prolific artists
The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the largest museum in the United States of America which is dedicated to a single artist. Andy Warhol is often called the Pope of Pop Art for his vital contribution to the movement. His most famous painting is Marilyn Diptych, which contains fifty images of Marilyn, all based on the same publicity photograph from the 1953 film Niagara. Considered an iconic symbol of pop art, Marilyn Diptych was named the third most influential piece of modern art in a survey by The Guardian.