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A pivotal figure in the development of Pop art, Andy Warhol was one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. The son of Eastern European immigrants, he was born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1949, after graduating from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh with a degree in pictorial design, Warhol moved to New York and began a career as an award-winning commercial artist and illustrator. Among his most memorable projects of this period were his advertising campaigns for the I. Miller shoe company and his window displays for the department store Bonwit Teller. During the 1950s, Warhol underwent a personal transformation; he had cosmetic surgery on his nose, began wearing a silver-gray hairpiece, and changed his last name to Warhol.
His experiences with commercial art significantly informed Warhol’s development in the early 1960s, as a Pop artist rendering images of consumer goods, celebrities, and even disasters in painted form. By 1962, Warhol developed a screenprinting technique to transfer photographic images to canvas, a method that gave his paintings a mechanical, almost assembly-line feel. His habit of stacking identical images in vertical or horizontal columns across his canvases also suggested the repetitive processes of mechanical reproduction and the scrolling frames of film strips. As his career flourished, his studio, nicknamed the Factory, became a hotbed of countercultural activity, with Warhol extending his reach into music (through work with the Velvet Underground) and filmmaking. Inspired by the movie stars he adored, Warhol created his own stable of “Superstars” who he featured in his films. He also experimented with fashion, creating paper dresses with images from his paintings.
By the late 1960s, Warhol himself was a household name. A pivotal moment in his life and career occurred in 1968, when Valerie Solanas, a disgruntled Factory denizen, shot and seriously injured him. Unnerved by the experience, Warhol nevertheless kept on working, continuing to make paintings and commissioned portraits (usually with substantial help from studio assistants) and venturing into publishing with his influential magazine, Interview. He also became a fixture on the New York social scene, partying at such glamorous venues as the venerable nightclub Studio 54. During the 1980s, Warhol became important for a younger generation, befriending artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf. Warhol’s health, however, remained fragile following his shooting; he died in 1987 from complications following routine gallbladder surgery.