A pivotal figure in postwar contemporary American art and one of the most prolific and publicly recognized artists of his time, Warhol shattered previously held ideas regarding the relationships between art and commerce, authorship, celebrity, and gender.
Born in Pittsburgh, he moved to New York in 1949 and became successful as a commercial artist. By the early 1960s, Warhol began painting what would become some of the iconic images of our age; his work was characterized by the repetition of banal subjects such as Campbell’s soup cans, appropriated from newspapers and advertisements. At this time he started using a silkscreen process that he substituted for painting by hand. Warhol had a lifelong fascination with Hollywood, and in 1962 he began a large series of celebrity portraits, including Marilyn, Elvis, and Liz. He also created a Death and Disaster series of paintings: —images of electric chairs, suicides, and car crashes. Photography—his own, as well as images appropriated from the mass media—played an essential role in the creation of these works.
Starting in the early 1960s, Warhol also broadened his activities to include filmmaking, with films such as Sleep (1963), Kiss (1963–64), Empire (1964), and The Chelsea Girls (1966) that were marked by an emphasis on repetition and the passage of time. In the early 1970s, he produced monumental portraits such as Mao, a number of commissioned portraits, and the Hammer and Sickle series. From the late 1970s until his death in 1987, Warhol created multiple series of challenging abstract works, including the Shadow, Rorschach, and Camouflage paintings, which were produced concurrently with large-scale collaborative efforts and religious works such as the Last Supper series. Since his death, there have been numerous retrospective exhibitions of Warhol’s work at distinguished institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1989; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2001–2; Tate Modern, London, 2002; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2012; and National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 2011–12.