Andy Warhol Art and Biography
Andy Warhol was one of the most influential modern artists. As one of the leading members of the Pop Art movement, and though most recognized for his paintings, he was also an author, filmmaker and record producer. Warhol’s art prints were as much a critique on modern culture as the subjects of his paintings were popular. Some of his most famous works include images of common life and popular culture. Beginning as a commercial illustrator it is clear to see the influence such subject matter had on his artwork and though one of the most prominent artists, Warhol was also one of the most criticized.
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Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 6, 1928 he spent most of his professional life in New York City. Warhol died on February 22, 1987 from a freak heart attack while in the hospital recovering from gall bladder surgery. Throughout his life, he was often associated with an eclectic crowd and was a friend amongst celebrities, street people, intellectuals and aristocrats alike. As a child, Warhol contracted St. Vitus’ dance, which affected the nervous system and caused involuntary movement of hands and feet, forcing him to stay home in bed often where he would draw, listen to the radio and post pictures of celebrities around his bed. It is easy to see the connection that this time in his life had on his artistic influence.
Andy Warhol, like many prominent artists, showed an early artistic talent. He studied commercial art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh and moved to New York City in 1949 where he began a successful career advertising and magazine illustration. However, it was not until the 1960s that Andy Warhol established himself as one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. It was during the sixties that Warhol began to create paintings of famous celebrities and popular commercial items. Andy Warhol poster prints created in the sixties revolved around American pop culture and revealed the deep fascination he had with mass-produced and highly visible images. Some of Warhol’s most famous art prints throughout this time were the Campbell’s Soup Cans, and various celebrities including Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.
Not only did Warhol create artwork surrounding popular culture of mass produced items, by switching to silkscreen processes, he also sought to make his artwork a mass-produced item in itself. By creating silkscreen art prints, Andy Warhol could reproduce his work relatively easy, which not only brought him popularity, but also scorn. Many artists began to critique Warhol’s choice of mass producing his work broke the lines of art exclusivity and the elitist nature inherent within. Warhol sought to bring art to the masses by making it accessible to all; similar to the very products he painted. Just as the Campbell’s soup cans or the Coca-Cola bottles he painted, Warhol’s art prints became his products distributed to popular commercial infused culture.
Not only did he create some of his major works in the 1960s it was also a decade that included some of the major events in Andy Warhol’s life. Warhol established his studio, “The Factory” where he surrounded himself with other artists, writers and musicians. Likewise, two major events of which Warhol was involved took place in the 60s, the Symposium on pop art hosted by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the 1964 exhibit “The American Supermarket”. Both events helped to establish Pop art as a movement and to explain the preverbal question of what is art. The 60’s also brought great turbulence to Warhol’s life when on June 3, 1968, Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol while he was at his studio. Though he lived, the event played a significant role in his life and art and for many caused the idealism produced within the factory scene to end.
Compared to the events and success experienced throughout the 1960s, the 70s and 80s proved to be a much less progressive decades. In the 70s he focused much of his attention on creating commissioned portraitures of high profile celebrities including Mic Jager, John Lennon and Michael Jackson. Likewise, in 1973 Andy Warhol painted his most famous portrait of then Chinese Communist dictator Mao Zedong. The 80s was an even less eventful decade with little recognition or forward progression in terms of art. With the shooting, mass influence and controversy, it appeared that Andy Warhol was happy with the legacy he would leave behind.
Andy Warhol art prints are a classic example of the Pop art movement that sought to critique and acknowledge the role of consumerism on popular culture. Art prints such as the 100 Campbell’s Soup Cans forced the recognition of repetition common in commercial advertising. Likewise, the bright colors associated with many of Warhol’s prints were like a visual commentary on advertising. To see Andy Warhol’s framed artwork is to experience the popular culture of decades past. Fine art representations of Warhol’s canvas prints allows the viewer to experience the mass consumer culture.
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