Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928. His parents, Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants Andrej and Julia Warhola, had three sons. Andy was their youngest. Devout Byzantine Catholics, the family attended mass regularly and observed the traditions of their Eastern European heritage. Warhol attended the nearby attended Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) from 1945 to 1949. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Pictorial Design.
Soon after graduating, Warhol moved to New York City. Warhol became one of the most successful illustrators of the 1950s, winning numerous awards. He had a unique, whimsical style of drawing that belied its frequent sources: traced photographs and imagery.
In the late 1950s, Warhol began to devote more energy to painting. He made his first Pop paintings, which he based on comics and ads, in 1961. The following 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. Shortly thereafter he began a large sequence of movie star portraits, including Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor. Warhol also started his series of “death and disaster” paintings at that time.
Between 1963 and 1968 Warhol worked with his Superstar performers and various other people to create hundreds of films. These 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’s first exhibition of sculptures was held in 1964. It included hundreds of replicas of large supermarket product boxes, including Brillo Boxes and Heinz Boxes. For this occasion, he premiered his new studio, painted silver and known as “The Factory”. It quickly became “the” place to be in New York. In 1966 Warhol exhibited Cow Wallpaper and Silver Clouds at the Leo Castelli Gallery.
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, collectibles, etc. The artist produced over 600 of them and they are now an archival goldmine of his life and times.
Throughout the 1970s Warhol frequently socialized with celebrities such as Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Truman Capote, both of whom had been important early subjects in his art. He started to receive dozens—and soon hundreds—of commissions for painted portraits from wealthy socialites, musicians and film stars. Celebrity portraits developed into a significant aspect of his career and a main source of income.
In 1984, Warhol collaborated with the young artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente, and Keith Haring. Warhol returned to painting with a brush for these artworks, briefly abandoning the silkscreen method he had used exclusively since 1962.
Warhol was a prolific artist, producing numerous works through the 1970s and 1980s. His paintings, prints, photographs, and drawings 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, 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, one month before his death.