The larger-than-life artist renowned for sparking the pop art movement would have been 90 years old today. With this in mind, we’re looking back at this legacy, and how he remains one of the most relevant artists – even to this day.
Warhol, who was born in Pittsburgh in 1928, began his art career as a commercial illustrator where one of his earliest jobs was to draw shoes for Glamour magazine in the 1940s. It was here that he began to develop his signature style as these reproductions of everyday products became part of his earliest works. It was also during these early years that he adopted silkscreen printing, which is a technique he’s known for pioneering.
It was in the 1950s, Warhol began exhibiting his work at major galleries, where he accumulated quite the following. A decade later he started producing his illustrations of mundane images such as Coca Cola cans, American dollar bills and Campbell’s soup, as well as the faces of celebrities such as Marylin Monroe and Muhammad Ali. It was during this period that he established his iconic studio – called The Factory. Warhol’s unabashed embrace of capitalism and consumerism was something he was both respected and criticised for. The first time he exhibited his Campbell’s soup painting was a landmark event for the pop art movement. In 1964 it showed at Paul Bianchini’s Upper East Side gallery and was on sale for $1500, which challenged what we perceive as art.
in 1968, Warhol barely survived an attempt on his life when he was shot by the writer Valerie Solanas. Having nearly died, and required to wear a surgical corset following the attack, his life and art were severely altered.
Understandably, the 1970s, the decade following the attack was much quieter for Warhol. It was here that he focused on entrepreneurship and making art a business, and began producing much of his portraits of famous figures, including that of Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong. In the 80s, he regained his sheen, and began to embody the zeitgeist-like figure of the shallow, American pop lifestyle.
The prolific artist died in 1987, following complications from a gall bladder operation and he would have been 90 today on the 6th August. Love him or hate him, there is no denying the endless effect that Warhol had on the modern art scene as we know it. He was likely one of the first public art figures to openly embrace shallow and consumerized American society and make it work for him. He also spawned an entire art style – that of pop art – as well as paving the way for other plucky young artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Julian Schnabel.