United States • 1928−1987
Andy Warhol (6 August 1928, Pittsburgh, U.S. – 22 February 1987, New York, U.S) was an American artist, one of the main pop-art idols. He was born in Pittsburgh, but mostly lived in New York. He relied on replicated and familiar images: soup cans, Coke bottles, the photographs of celebrities and famous political figures. Besides painting, he engaged in photography, directing and producing films, he was also the producer of the rock band Velvet Underground, and the founder of Interview magazine. He survived an assassination attempt and clinical death.

Creative features of the painter Andy Warhol: He was one of the first, who used screen printing as a painting technique. The portraits painted by Warhol are idealized, iconized pictures, painted with bright colours. Dozens of the same works of art were made at The Factory daily, he founded the mass production of pop art. The paintings were often the fruits of collective labour, that's why it is difficult to determine the ownership of each.

Famous paintings by Andy Warhol: The Marilyn Diptych, Eight Elvises, 100 Dollar Bills, 100 Campbell's Soup Cans, Mao, Red Lenin.

Andy Warhol often repeated one mysterious phrase: "I want to be a machine." he artist had a special love for different technical means. He worked on his paintings switching on TV and music player simultaneously to stay in the permanent flow of information. In different periods of his biography, he meticulously fixed every quite important event with the recorder, Polaroid or video camera. Warhol tried to capture even seemingly insignificant moment one way or another, in an effort to immortalize himself by these moments, frozen in time.

The Creation of the Humanoids of 1962 was his favourite film, which resembled famous Blade Runner by its plot. The main idea of the film was the possibility of the complete transferring the human’s personal traits and of a human in the robot body, providing it with an infinitely long life. Perhaps, it was the main Andy Warhol's dream: to become a machine and reach immortality.

A Tribute to the Past

In February 1987, shortly after the death of Warhol, his apartment was opened by the assistants, lawyers and relatives of the artist, and behind the door, they come across a huge storage. Among many boxers with wigs, clothes, shoes and audio recordings only one small portrait of Mao was found. In fact, shoes were one of his fetishes: He not only kept his own shoes for dozens of years, but also collected women's.

Probably, it was a peculiar reminder about the beginning of his artistic journey; at the beginning of his being in New York, he drew advertisements for shoe brand I.Miller. As soon as he settled in New York, he could hardly make ends meet, often sharing his apartment with a dozens of other people and hordes of cockroaches. One of the legends, which Warhol told about himself, was the story how he brought his portfolio to the editor of Harper's Bazaar. When the editor opened the folder with his works, a cockroach crawled out on her table. And if that woman were a bit more fastidious, if she hadn't sympathized with the young artist, his career could have gone the other way.

According to the tradition of Warhola family, which had started in Pittsburgh, his every Sunday morning began with the trip to the church. Being a child, the future artist was mesmerized by the numerous icons in the church he visited. In New York, the icons transformed into paintings. His brightly painted portraits of such contemporaries, as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and James Dean, eventually became as popular as actors and musicians depicted.

Warhol chose the phenomenon of mass culture unmistakeably (Coke bottle or even soup can) and transform them into the new phenomenon.  After Sunday church service, Andy fed pigeons in the park and went to the junk market. He was walking long hours around the market, contemplating at each attractive thing and could not help buying a lot of them. He dreamed of buying some nick-nack one day, which would cost millions years later. Some of these things he used in his art, but most of them remained in his apartment. The part of these things he packed in his famous time capsules - boxes with different objects, audio, documents, checks, postcards, and product labels that were a sort of message in the future.

The Family Values

Since childhood, Andy was greatly attached to his mother. Julia was always with him when he was confined to the bed due to illness. As soon as he settled down in New York for good, he began to earn a lot and his mother started to live with him. Many his friends and visitors were taking Julia for his servant, as she was always moving around the house with a broom. Years of living in New York didn't help her to master English really, that's why she talked with a terrible accent. Despite the permanent involvement in work, mother remained a very important part of Andy's life. Like in his childhood, she continued to feed him Campbell's Soup, clean the house and take care of her son. By hearsay, she even participated in his art: the famous signature of Andy Warhol was done by Julia. 

Nevertheless, it can't be said that the relations with his family were perfect. In his childhood, Andy hated school and was an outsider among his peers due to his morbidity and unsociable demeanour. His specific appearance also didn't boost the confidence. He had very pale skin and as soon as he sunned, the blotches on it revealed, and his big nose was always red due to the problems with vessels. He relatives kindly called him Andy the Red-Nosed Warhol. That's why as soon as he earned enough money, the plastic surgery was the first thing he did. In addition, the painter started to lose hair very early, so he began to wear wigs, which became his distinctive calling card. Andy ordered his wigs at the same place, and often improved them by cutting and dyeing. Once he told why he always appeared in the public wearing the wig. According to him, in this case, people always noticed the wig, but not him. Besides, it gave him the opportunity to be a person, who did not belong to any era, a man who lived beyond the time. Over the years of living in New York, Andy collected more than 50 wigs. At the end of his way, he began to treat them as works of art, and even made a series of pictures with the wigs.

Experiments with his own appearance were a peculiar camouflage method to escape from his painful shyness. For the same reason, he always was in the company of people (Andy was said to have an amazing ability to surround himself with the most beautiful people in New York). He preferred to walk along the streets with his entourage, because in this case, it was easier to hide. In the group of friends and admirers, he did not feel so vulnerable, it was impossible to break him, as he was not alone.

The Life and Death

The biggest passion of Andy (in addition to collecting anything in the world) was parties. He said, if New York threw a party to celebrate the opening of a public toilet, he would come there the first. He participated in every somewhat significant event in the Big Apple. There were rumours, that some of the parties he attended himself, but to others, which were at the same time, he sent his counterparts, wearing wigs and glasses. In such a way, the artist could be present at several places simultaneously, and no one could say with confidence where the real Warhol was. The main party for Andy was obviously at The Factory. His studio became a Mecca for misfits of all kinds. He was not really interested in the rich and famous, he liked transvestites, junkies and unsuccessful actors. The life at The Factory never stopped. Here they drank and used drugs, had sex and heart-to-heart talks, here they stamped paintings by Warhol and made his movies. He joined not all the activities of his diverse entourage, but on the rights of a kind parent, he generously allowed his children to do everything that could come to their minds in a huge room with silver walls.

When Valerie Solanas appeared at the Factory for the first time, she could not understand why all these bums sitting in the Studio all day, were ready to be at each other's throats for the attention of the magnificent Andy. A radical feminist and a man-hater Valerie, who was raped by her father in childhood, who lived in a tent near the Hudson, who had to sell herself and who almost died after the clandestine abortion, was black sheep of the lazy and reckless Bohemian audience. However, Andy and Valerie saw something in each other and began to communicate (she even starred in two of his films), although, he kept her at a distance, being afraid of her radical judgments about the injustice of the world order.

Solanas gave him her script called Up Your Ass and demanded to shoot it. Having read some paragraphs, Andy agreed, but soon after, changed his mind. "The name seemed to be wonderful, and I was in a good mood, that's why I agreed to shot it, but the play was so dirty..." About his promise to Valerie the artist forgot.  After that, everybody started to bring their scripts to The Factory.

Soon Warhol got tired of Solanas, especially after she published her manifest SCUM(Society for Cutting Up Men) and tried to sell a few copies at his studio. There are several versions of when and how the final disagreement between Solanas and Andy happened. One of the versions was that disastrous script, the single copy of which was lost by Andy. According to another version, a fatal concurrence of circumstances was to blame: the target of Valerie was the publisher Maurice Girodias, but on 3 June 1968, he was not in his seat, so the girl went to The Factory, which had recently relocated. She shot Warhol three times and at least one bullet reached the target (here, the testimony of eyewitnesses differs). After that, Solanas quietly left the building and came up to a random policeman saying: "The police are looking for me. I shot Andy Warhol. He had too much control in my life" (some journalists are prone to excessive drama, added that Valerie had bought an ice cream cone).

While Andy was bleeding on the floor at the Studio, assistants and friends were fussing around him. At some point, the artist giggled and said, "Please don't make me laugh.
It hurts too much." The paramedics recorded clinical death (later Warhol said that he heard how he was declared dead). The operation lasted for five hours, the doctors did everything possible to save mangled internal organs and keep the painter alive. 

An Unexpected Ending

After the assassination attempt, Andy became even more afraid of people, especially women. He ceased to shoot them in his films, replacing with transvestites. The Factory had security after that, so not everybody could come to the studio. Warhol refused to press charges against Solanas and she served only three-year prison sentence, including one year of treatment in a psychiatric hospital.

A new phase began for Andy; it was even more associated with the death. Warhol's movie career slowly, bur relentlessly went down. In the early 70's, he returned to painting again, and most of his paintings, by the way, were portraits. the faces of transvestites neighboured with the bright painting of Mao Zedong, the picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the red communist Lenin Dracula and Sigmund Freud. There is an impression that Andy tried to fix in his art works as many moments of surrounded reality as possible, to keep them forever, to preserve them as he did with his time capsules. The common motif of his paintings at that time became skull, the eternal reminder of the death and mortality. In 1978, Warhol created an abstract monumental series of Shadow paintings, consisted of 102 large floor-to-ceiling canvases, which confused the viewer with unsuccessful attempts to draw the line between light and shadow.

In the 80's, he went back to ornamental style, he, in a sense, referred to his private and universal past. Again, he drew shoes, from which his career began. He did duplicative art after the famous Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Munch, painting the copies of their paintings in his own manner and transforming them into patterns. In the last years of the artist's life, these coloured ornaments dissolved, turning into abstract forms of Warhol's Camouflage series. Andy found a new way to hide from others and from reality in the art. Since childhood, the morbid boy hated hospitals, especially after the assassination attempt, so he saw doctors only in extreme cases.

In 1987, however, the doctor insisted on a new operation: because of the injury, Andy started to have problems with his gallbladder. He refused to inform anyone that he had to go under the knife and made his way to New York hospital under the name Bob Roberts. The operation was simple and went smoothly, but then something went wrong. An autopsy revealed that Andy had a pulmonary oedema, and he suffocated about five in the morning on February 22. The idol of pop art style, who always surrounded himself with people, died alone.

Author: Yevheniia Sidelnikova
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