Andy Warhol was born as Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1928. His parents had emigrated to the USA from Ruthenia, a region now in the Slovak Republic.
Between 1945 and 1949 Warhol studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. In 1949, he moved to New York and changed his name to Warhol. He worked as a commercial artist for magazines and also designed advertising and window displays. A pioneer and central figure of Pop Art, he began his career in the 1950s as an illustrator at a New York advertising agency. His career in fashion and design had a tremendous influence on his artistic output.
Taking his cues from pop culture, he replicated totems of consumption, which became the iconography of his work. Inspired by best-selling items in the food industry, comics, portraits of movie stars, magazine spreads, and society’s overall change towards a culture of mass consumption and easy reproduction, he created work in multiples, using the mechanical means of silkscreen printing. In this way, he distanced the artist’s hand from the work itself, just as Marcel Duchamp had done with his readymade pieces in Europe in the early 20th century. Warhol made art using “artificial processes”: through the use of overhead projectors, screen-printing or photographic superimpositions. He also filmed experimental Super 8 movies. With his Polaroid camera, he snapped portraits of the artists and celebrities he frequented.
In the early 1960s, he began to experiment with reproductions based on advertisements, newspaper headlines and other mass-produced images from American popular culture such as Campbell's soup tins and Coca Cola bottles.
In 1962, he began his series portraits of Marilyn Monroe. Other subjects given similar treatment included Jackie Kennedy and Elvis Presley. The same year he took part in the New Realists exhibition in New York, which was the first important survey of Pop Art.
In 1963, Warhol began to make experimental films. His studio, known as the Factory, became a meeting point for young artists, actors, musicians and hangers-on. One of these, Valerie Solanas, shot and seriously wounded him in 1968.
In 1964, he opened The Factory in a loft in Manhattan, an atelier where he organised parties and artistic events. He invited many then-unknown young artists and launched their careers, including Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the Velvet Underground.
Warhol was now established as an internationally famous artist and throughout the 1970s and 1980s exhibited his work around the world.
On 22 February 1987, Warhol died unexpectedly in a New York hospital following a gall bladder operation.