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Andy Warhol: Artistic Entrepreneur

Painter, illustrator, filmmaker, music manager, author – Andy Warhol challenged what it meant to be an artist in the 20th century. One of the most popular names in modern art today, Warhol was wildly successful in his own time and had a huge impact on the art world that still resonates into the 21st century.

Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1928 to working-class Slovakian immigrant parents. Showing early artistic promise, Warhol studied commercial art at Carnegie Mellon University. At the age of 21, he moved to New York City to work as a magazine illustrator. Although Warhol became one of New York’s most sought after illustrators, it wasn’t until the 1960s that he made his mark in the world of art.

Although Warhol was successful as an illustrator, he found that his artwork was of little interest to galleries. In an effort to better define himself, he embraced the idea of art as a unifying force for people from all walks of life. To do this, he drew upon American pop culture. Following this theme, he began to produce artwork featuring famous American products such as Campbell’s soup and Coca-Cola as well as images of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. In his attempt to merge commercialism and art, Warhol mass produced many of his paintings, often using silk-screening as a technique. Since the subjects of his art were immediately recognizable, Warhol’s work quickly became popular and by the end of the decade, he had played a major role in redefining the nature of art.

The nature of Warhol’s work changed significantly in the 1970s as he focused on portraits of celebrities such as Mick Jagger, Liza Minelli and Michael Jackson. Having acquired a circle of highly influential acquaintances, Warhol pursued art as an entrepreneurial endeavor. Although quiet and shy, his social network enabled him to reach the pinnacle of his artistic career.

In addition to the paintings and silk-screens that most of us are familiar with, Warhol produced more than sixty films during his lifetime. Many of the films feature erotic themes, prolonged footage of a single activity and unusual visual effects. Warhol managed the musical rock band The Velvet Underground, enabling them to record their first album. Warhol also produced the cover art for the band’s album as well as artwork for two of The Rolling Stone's albums. In addition to portfolios of his work, Warhol published several books including a novel, a philosophical treatise on art, and a daily journal. He also created a magazine called Interview, a fashion publication that is still sold today. Warhol also produced drawings, photographs, sculpture, two cable TV programs, audio recordings, and fashions. He even worked as a model at one time and made a guest appearance on the well-known TV show, The Love Boat.

A quiet workaholic, Warhol surprises us with his bold and untraditional style. As a young boy, Warhol suffered a series of illnesses that caused him to be bed-ridden for long periods of time. As a result, he was an outcast among his classmates. He spent much of his time drawing in bed while listening to the radio. Warhol was openly homosexual, a theme which colored his artwork. He was also surprisingly devout, often attending mass on a daily basis and volunteering at homeless shelters. In 1968, Warhol was shot by former employee Valerie Solanas because Warhol had misplaced a script that Solanas had created and given to him. Warhol barely survived and the injury had a profound effect upon his health in subsequent years. Warhol died in 1987 at the age of 52 from a heart attack after routine gall bladder surgery.

A film called Factory Girl is expected to be released in January 2007. The film explores the rise and fall of artist Edie Sedgwick who Warhol promised to make a star.

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Diana Blake is a professional artist and art history enthusiast. Her fascination with art history began when she encountered European art firsthand during several trips abroad as a young adult. As she began to compose a portfolio for her own art career, she called upon what she had seen in Europe and extended her knowledge to other styles of art through profuse reading and exhaustive research. As a result, Diana has written more than one hundred articles in which she delves into a variety of art history topics and she has compiled a list of links that she believes to be invaluable for art history enthusiasts. In addition, she also reviews books and movies on the topic of art history and has assembled an extensive list of online stores that sell books, movies and gift items related to art history.
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