On this day in 1987, Andy Warhol died.
Andy Warhol, a founder of Pop Art whose paintings and prints of Presidents, movie stars, soup cans and other icons of America made him one of the most famous artists in the world, died yesterday. He was believed to be 58 years old.
The artist died at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, where he underwent gall bladder surgery Saturday. His condition was stable after the operation, according to a hospital spokeswoman, Ricki Glantz, but he had a heart attack in his sleep around 5:30 A.M.
Though best known for his earliest works – including his silk-screen image of a Campbell’s soup can and a wood sculpture painted like a box of Brillo pads – Mr. Warhol’s career included successful forays into photography, movie making, writing and magazine publishing.
He founded Interview magazine in 1969, and in recent years both he and his work were increasingly in the public eye – on national magazine covers, in society columns and in television advertisements for computers, cars, cameras and liquors.
In all these endeavors, Mr. Warhol’s keenest talents were for attracting publicity, for uttering the unforgettable quote and for finding the single visual image that would most shock and endure. That his art could attract and maintain the public interest made him among the most influential and widely emulated artists of his time.
Although himself shy and quiet, Mr. Warhol attracted dozens of followers who were anything but quiet, and the combination of his genius and their energy produced dozens of notorious events throughout his career. In the mid-1960’s, he sometimes sent a Warhol look alike to speak for him at lecture engagements, and his Manhattan studio, ”the Factory,” was a legendary hangout for other artists and hangers-on.
In 1968, however, a would-be follower shot and critically wounded Mr. Warhol at the Factory. After more than a year of recuperation, Mr. Warhol returned to his career, which he increasingly devoted to documenting, with Polaroid pictures and large silk-screen prints, political and entertainment figures. He started his magazine, and soon became a fixture on the fashion and jet-set social scene.
In the 1980’s, after a relatively quiet period in his career, Mr. Warhol burst back onto the contemporary art scene as a mentor and friend to young artists, including Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat. With Mr. Basquiat, Mr. Warhol collaborated on a series of paintings in which he shunned mechanical reproduction techniques and painted individual canvases for the first time since the early 1960’s.
He never denied his obsession with art as a business and with getting publicity; instead, he proclaimed them as philosophical tenets.
”Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art,” he said on one occasion. On another, he said: ”Art? That’s a man’s name.” As widely known as his art and his own image were, however, Mr. Warhol himself was something of a cipher. He was uneasy while speaking about himself. ”The interviewer should just tell me the words he wants me to say and I’ll repeat them after him,” he once said. Date of Birth Uncertain
The earliest facts of his life remain unclear. He was born somewhere in Pennsylvania in either 1928, 1929 or 1930, according to three known versions of his life. (The most commonly accepted date is Aug. 6, 1928.) The son of immigrant parents from Czechoslovakia, his father a coal miner – the family’s name was Warhola -he attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University), from which he graduated with a degree in pictorial design in 1949.
He immediately set out for New York, where he changed his name to Warhol and began a career as an illustrator and a commerical artist, working for Tiffany’s, Bonwit Teller’s, Vogue, Glamour, The New York Times and other magazines and department stores.
By the late 1950’s, he was highly successful, having earned enough money to move to a town house in Midtown, and having received numerous professional prizes and awards. Despite his success, however, he increasingly considered trying his hand at making paintings, and in 1960 he did so with a series of pictures based on comic strips, including Superman and Dick Tracy, and on Coca-Cola bottles.
Success, however, was not immediate. Leo Castelli, the art dealer best known for discovering the artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, saw Mr. Warhol’s paintings but declined to show his work, since Roy Lichtenstein, who also painted pictures taken from comic strips, was already represented by the gallery. Ivan Karp, a talent scout for Castelli who discovered Mr. Warhol, tried to help him find a New York gallery that would show his work, with no success. The Birth of a Movement
In 1962, the dam broke, with Mr. Warhol’s first exhibition of the Campbell’s soup cans at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, and his show of other works at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York. Other Pop artists, including Mr. Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselman also began to achieve prominence around the country at the time, and the movement was born.
Though some of Mr. Warhol’s first Pop Art paintings had drips on them – evidence that the painter’s hand had left its mark on the work – by 1963 Mr. Warhol had dispensed with the brush altogether. Instead, he turned to exclusively hard-edged images made in the medium of silk-screen print, which made a depersonalized image that became Mr. Warhol’s trademark.
”Painting a soup can is not in itself a radical act,” the critic Robert Hughes wrote in 1971. ”But what was radical in Warhol was that he adapted the means of production of soup cans to the way he produced paintings, turning them out en masse – consumer art mimicking the the process as well as the look of consumer culture.”
In 1964 Mr. Warhol was taken on by the Castelli Gallery, which remained his art dealer until his death. His experimentation with underground films began around that time – an interest that culminated in widespread notoriety if not overwhelming box office acclaim.
”Eat,” a 45-minute film, showed the artist Robert Indiana eating a mushroom. ”Haircut” showed a Warhol groupie having his hair cut over a span of 33 minutes, and another, ”Poor Little Rich Girl,” was filmed out of focus and showed Edie Sedgwick, a Warhol follower who became a celebrity on the New York social circuit, talking about herself.
In the 1970’s, recuperated from his near fatal gunshot wound, Mr. Warhol settled down to a sustained creative period in which his fame as a society figure leveled off, but his output, if anything, increased. Working most often in silk-screen prints, he made series of pictures of political and Hollywood celebrities, including Mao, Liza Minelli, Jimmy Carter and Russell Banks.
In 1975, he published ”The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again),” a collection of statements and epigrams that elucidated his contrary views on art.
In his glancing and elliptical style, Mr. Warhol wrote about subjects ranging from art to money and sex. ”Checks aren’t money,” he wrote in one section of the book. In another, he said: ”Fantasy love is much better than reality love. Never doing it is very exciting. The most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet.”
In the 1980’s, Mr. Warhol became more active in commissioned art projects and a variety of other commercial activties. In 1983, he made a series of prints – based on animals of endangered species – that was first shown at the American Museum of Natural History. A Near Exception
Although some of his later art projects seemed to diverge from his calculating approach and to be motivated in part by social concern, Mr. Warhol generally avoided any such suggestion. He came closest to making an exception in 1985, when he exhibited a group of prints of clowns, robots, monkeys and other images he made for children at the Newport (R.I.) Art Museum in 1985.
”It’s just that the show’s for children,” he told a reporter at the time. ”I wanted it arranged for them. The Newport Museum agreed to hang all of my children’s pictures at levels where only kids could really see them.”
After the news of his death was publicized yesterday, artists, celebrities and politicians who knew Mr. Warhol spoke of his influence on culture, and on their lives.
”He had this wry, sardonic knack for dismissing history and putting his finger on public taste, which to me was evidence of living in the present,” said the sculptor George Segal. ”Every generation of artists has the huge problem of finding their own language and talking about their own experience. He was out front with several others of his generation in pinning down how it was to live in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.”
Leo Castelli, Mr. Warhol’s dealer of 23 years, said Mr. Warhol, more than practically any artist of the last two decades, seemed to have a continuing and strong influence on today’s emerging artists. ”Of all the painters of his generation he’s still the one most influential on the younger artists – a real guru,” Mr. Castelli said.
Martha Graham, the dancer and choreographer, recalled her first meeting with Warhol. ”When I first met Andy, he confided to me that he was born in Pittsburgh as I was, and that when he first saw me dance ‘Appalachian Spring’ it touched him deeply. He touched me deeply as well. He was a gifted, strange maverick who crossed my life with great generosity. His last act was the gift of three portraits [ of Miss Graham ] he donated to my company to help my company meet its financial needs.”
In his book, ”The Philosophy of Andy Warhol,” the artist wrote a short chap=ter entitled ”Death” that consisted almost entirely of these words: ”I’m so sorry to hear about it. I just thought that things were magic and that it would never happen.”
Dr. Elliot M. Gross, the Chief Medical Examiner for New York City, said an autopsy on Mr. Warhol would be conducted today. Dr. Gross explained that deaths occurring during surgery or shortly afterward are considered deaths of an ”unusual manner.”
”It was an unexplained death of a relatively young person in apparently good health,” he said.
Mr. Warhol is survived by two brothers, John Warhola and Paul Warhola, both of Pittsburgh.