In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.
– Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol was the most successful and highly paid commercial illustrator in New York even before he became a world famous artist and icon.


Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh in 1928. He was the youngest of three sons born to Czechoslovakian immigrant parents, Ondrej and Julia Warhola. Ondrej, who worked as a coal miner, died when Warhol was fourteen. Julia, was an amateur artist, who encouraged Warhol to draw and paint and gave him his first camera when he was nine years old.


Warhol suffered from Sydenham's chorea, also known as St. Vitus' Dance, as a child, and often stayed home from school, listening to the radio, reading magazines and learning about popular culture. He graduated from high school at age sixteen and studied design at Carnegie Mellon University. After graduating, in 1949, Warhol moved to New York, where he began an illustrious career as a commercial illustrator. His first job was illustrating an article for Glamour magazine titled, "Success is a Job in New York.”


Throughout the 1950s Warhol created ads for popular magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and The New Yorker and window displays for high-end retail stores. His work for I. Miller & Sons shoes company garnered him awards from the Art Director's Club and the American Institute of Graphic Arts.


In 1952 he shortened his name to Warhol and began to work on his own art. His first solo show was an exhibit of Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote at the Hugo Gallery. His continued success garnered him a place in a group show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1956. By 1960 Warhol began to create his first Pop Art paintings, using ads and comics and eliminating brushstrokes and any other signs of the human touch. He bought a townhouse on the Upper East Side, where he lived with his mother, and rented a nearby obsolete fire house to use as a studio. The studio provided him with more space and privacy and, in 1961, he began his iconic Campbell’s Soup paintings. He then went on to use stencils and silkscreen to create images of popular consumer goods.


The success of his work enabled him to rent a studio, that he called The Factory on East 47th Street and to hire assistants to mass produce works that challenged the definition of art. Warhol also made about 600 films in the 1960s and 70s, founded Interview Magazine in 1969 and chronicled much of his life on Polaroid film. On June 3, 1968, Valerie Solanas, who had been a regular at The Factory, shot and badly wounded Warhol. She told police that she thought Warhol, “had too much control over my life.” The resulting injuries left Warhol with physical difficulties throughout the rest of his life and subdued the energy and output at The Factory.


He was given a retrospective at The Whiney in 1971 and continued to work on portraits, with many commissions from the rich and famous. In the 1980s his career was energized by his association with young artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.


Warhol died in New York Hospital in February 1987, after what was supposed to be routine gallbladder surgery. He was 58. He was buried near his parents in a cemetery just south of Pittsburgh. A memorial service was held for Warhol at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York on April 1, 1987, with over 2,000 people in attendance. Andy Warhol continues to be one of the most influential artists the world has known, challenging and redefining the role of art, and the artist, in the modern world. The Andy Warhol Foundation not only holds the artist’s works, but also supports art institutions around the world.



Grace Glueck. Warhol is Remembered by 2,000 at St. Patrick’s. The New York Times. April 2, 1987
Jesse Kornbluth. Remembering the World of Andy Warhol. New York Magazine. March 9, 1987.


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