Andy Warhol and the Pop Art Movement : A Biography

Andy Warhol was one of the most famous and influential artists in history. Since the early 1960s, his work changed the way people thought, and caused them to take a critical look at life from the 1960s to early 1970s.
Pop art and its artists existed before Andy Warhol emerged. Beginning in the 1950s, artists of this revolution sought to bring reality into their art, and a departure from the then-common commercialism. Those artists painted commonplace objects. However, it wasn’t until art aficionados took notice in the early 1960s that pop art became revolutionary.

Although the true birth date of Andy Warhola, who later changed his name to Warhol, is unknown, his birth certificate states his birth date as August 6, 1928, in Soho, a neighborhood in Pittsburgh.

He was sent to school two years earlier than other children his age. However, after being hit on his first day, he decided not to return, and his mother realized he was too young for school. Mistakenly, his one day of school was counted as an entire year, and Andy was allowed to skip the first grade. The school years that followed were consumed by his art, and his talent won him many friends.

In 1941, Andy entered Schenly High School. Although he was frail, he found his artwork could protect himself from the larger children, who would gather around him to watch him draw.

After high school, he went to Carnegie Technological Institution, where professors would come to consider his works controversial. Additionally, he failed many assignments because of his Czechoslovakian background, which hindered his ability to speak and write English. Andy was nearly expelled, but he always prevailed.

As college graduation neared, Andy decided to become an art teacher, and sent an application for a position at an art school in Indiana. After he was rejected, he traveled to New York.

Although Andy’s speedily-made, yet beautiful, artwork quickly made him famous for commercial work, he wanted to be appreciated as an original artist. However, his paintings of Coca-Cola bottles and cartoon characters were dismissed by critics as too similar to other artists’ works.
Desperate, Andy turned to his friend, Muriel Latow and paid her $50 for her ideas. She told him to paint what he liked. “I like money,” he told her. So, she suggested he paint money, which turned out to be one of his most famous works. She also told him to paint objects that were so “everyday” that they became unnoticed, like a can of soup.

Andy liked this idea, and later instructed his mother with whom he shared an apartment, to buy every variety of Campbell’s soup on the shelves. Once he was surrounded by all 32 varieties of the soup, he began to paint. He made many versions of soup cans. While this work was considered controversial by many critics, he quickly became known as the person who painted Campbell’s soup cans.

Andy was on his way to fame, and began painting portraits of famous people in unnatural colors (Marilyn Monroe, Mao Tse-Tung, and others).

Another technique he employed was silk screening, a method by which an image could be repeatedly copied. His logic was: “If one is good, more must be better.” He painted huge images in this way. In 1963, he also began working in “the factory,” a studio where he produced many of his greatest works.

Eventually, to keep his ideas fresh, he started producing and/or directing movies. His movies didn’t have a plot or, in many cases, characters. The movies that he produced included The Chelsea Girls, Blue Movie, Sleep, Haircut, and Empire.

In Sleep, a man is shown sleeping for eight hours, and in Empire, the Empire State Building is shown for six hours. His movies were considered controversial by critics, though the common people hated them.

Andy’s fame eventually got the better of him. In 1968, actor Valerie Solanis shot Warhol in the chest. She claimed that he had too much control over her life. She then shot another artist, Mario Amaya, and then threatened to shoot another when the gun jammed. She fled by elevator. Andy recovered, but after that, whenever the elevator rang, he always started to shake.

Andy later worked with American artist, James Wyeth, in 1976, and Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1984. He published one magazine, called Interview in 1969. He had many art shows, and every one astounded his critics in ways both good and bad.

Andy Warhol died from a heart attack on February 22, 1987, more than 25 years after he first painted the soup cans. Few artists have yet to match Andy’s popularity and effect on his critics. As he sought fame, he showed the world how commercialized it had become. And Andy changed how people pictured life. Andy was one of the biggest and most controversial artists in history, and his influence and legacy live on today.