A key player in the visual art movement known as pop art, Andy Warhol was an American artist, film director, and producer.
From painting, silkscreening, photography, and sculpture, he uses a range of mediums to examine how advertising, celebrity culture, and artistic expression are all intertwined.
Soup Cans (1962), Marilyn Diptych, Empire and Chelsea Girls (1964, 1966, 1968–69), and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966–67) are just a few of his most well-known pieces of art.
Childhood and Adolescence
The house where Andy Warhol grew up. In Pittsburgh’s South Oakland district at 3252 Dawson Street
On August 6, 1928, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Andy Warhol was born. A descendant of the Austrian-born parents, he was the fourth child of Ondrej (Americanized as Andrew Warhola Sr.) and Julia (née Zavacká, 1892–1972), who had a first child who died before moving to the United States.
A picture of Andy Warhol as a baby, about 1930, with his mother Julia (on the right) and brother John (on the left).
They were Lemkos emigrants from Mikó, Austria-Hungary (now Miková, located in today’s northeastern Slovakia), who came to the United States as working-class emigrants. After the death of Warhol’s grandparents in 1921, his father immigrated to the United States in 1914, and his mother followed in 1923.
Warhol’s father toiled in a coal mine. For a while, the family called Oakland’s Oakland area home, first at 55 Beelen Street and then at 3252 Dawson Street.
St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church was the family’s place of worship. Warhol had two older brothers, Pavol (Paul) and Ján, all of whom were born in Pittsburgh. James Warhola, Pavol’s son, went on to be a well-known children’s book illustrator.
He was diagnosed with Sydenham’s chorea (also known as St. Vitus’ Dance) in third grade, a disorder of the nervous system characterized by uncontrollable movements of the limbs, which is thought to be the result of scarlet fever, a condition that produces blotchy skin.
When he was confined to his bed, he would draw, listen to music, and display posters of his favorite movie stars. Throughout his life, Warhol considered this time a pivotal moment in his growth as an artist. In a tragic accident, Warhol’s father died at the age of 13.
What Is Going on in My Personal Life?
Andy Warhol identified as a lesbian and bisexual. At one point in time, he claimed to a reporter that he was still unmarried in the year 1980.
According to his biographer Bob Colacello, who was present during the interview and witnessed Andy’s admission that he experienced “a blend of voyeurism and masturbation—to use [Andy’s] term abstract,” he was right. Condylomata, a sexually transmitted illness, was diagnosed in Warhol’s hospitalization in 1960, contradicting his claim of virginity.
His partners, including Andy Warhol’s muse BillyBoy, have all denied having sex to the point of climax “Whenever you were alone with him and not in the presence of the public, Andy Warhol was kind and compassionate.
The only Andy Warhol I saw was the one who captivated me. In fact, when we were out in public together, he was starting to irritate me… The first thing I’d say to someone like that is, “I can’t stand you.” Warhol was not only a bystander, as Billy Name further debunked: “In his core, he was a sexual being. Everything was engulfed in it.
Along with his enormous artistic inventiveness, Andy emanated it. It offered a delight to the whole art scene in New York.” However, his personality was so weak that he had to put on a blank face as a protection.”
In addition to John Giorno and Billy Name, Warhol was also romantically involved with Charles Lisanby and Jon Gould. In 1968, he met Jed Johnson, a well-known interior designer, and the two began a 12-year relationship.
The Death of Andy Warhol Was a Shocking End to a Colorful Lifetime
Although Andy Warhol was a pop culture star, his death, at least on the surface, was very ordinary. In 1987, Andy Warhol died in a New York hospital after what appeared to be a routine procedure turned deadly.
Andy had gallbladder surgery in February 1987, which was considered standard at the time. However, on the morning of February 22, he died unexpectedly from a postoperative cardiac arrhythmia (a fatal irregular heartbeat).
Andy’s family first sued the hospital for negligence, saying that Andy’s death was caused by the inappropriate post-op treatment he got there. They eventually reached an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed sum.
However, looking back, there were a number of indications that Andy’s operation was more problematic than first imagined.
From the outset, Andy’s surgery was deemed risky, according to a New York Times piece published in 2017. For many years, his mother had been concerned about him, but he had put off treatment for his gallbladder issues because he was terrified of hospitals.
His family had been affected by gallbladder illness. Even without the gallbladder poisoning him from the inside out due to prior near-fatal shootings, his drug addictions, and his eating habits, his health had already been severely harmed by the time he consented to have surgery to remove it.
A medical historian and former chairman of surgery at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, Dr. John Ryan, stated in 2017. “This was a huge, major operation—not routine—in a very ill individual.”
Although Andy died after a very routine procedure, he had a frightening encounter with death earlier in his life. At Andy’s studio on June 3, 1968, artist Valerie Solanas shot him and art critic Mario Amaya.
Her work as an actor and a writer had grown strongly feminist to the point of being anti-male, and she even wrote the SCUM manifesto which proposed an ideal society in which males and patriarchal systems were abolished entirely.
The script that Valerie had requested Andy to consider producing had been taken by Andy, she felt, among others, in a conspiracy against her. To prove her point, she showed up at his studio and shot both Andy and Mario as soon as they allowed her in. Andy was gravely hit by one of the gunshots, but Mario was just slightly damaged.
For the rest of his life, he was physically affected by the five-hour procedure that saved his life. Valarie had paranoid schizophrenia and only served three years in jail for her crimes; after she was released, she stalked and was caught for a second time.
This left Andy in terror for the rest of his life. Physical injuries from the gunshot did play a role in Andy’s decline, but it was gallbladder disease and hard living that ultimately claimed his life.