Andy Warhol was always very vague about the details of his life, retaining his privacy and creating an air of mystery. As a result, definitive detail on some questions is subject to debate.
Warhol attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, receiving a fine arts degree in pictorial design in 1949. After graduating, Warhol moved to New York City, where he worked in advertising. He slowly gained a reputation, winning the Art Directors’ Club medal in 1957.
Given this success, by 1960 Warhol felt able to branch out and began painting less commercial based pictures. His paintings, such as his comic strips and brightly coloured iconic objects in rows, were initially rejected by the art world. However he continued and, in 1962, he held his second show in New York which was met with critical acclaim.
Following this success, Warhol opened his own studio, The Factory, which was to be a centre for the pop world.
As a 'pop artist', Warhol used popular culture as inspiration. However, this realist inspiration was added to, in his work with stronger colours, shapes and scale, to make the images almost unreal. In this way, Warhol, along with other popular artists, helped to redefine pictorial realism.
In the same year, 1968, Warhol was shot and nearly killed. His slow recovery marked a new period in his work.
During the 1970s, Warhol turned to painting famous personalities from all walks of life. These figures included Mao Tse-Tung, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Carter, and Philip Johnson. These paintings represented not simply a change of subject but also a change of emphasis, as they were more detailed and subtle than much of this earlier works.
During the 1980s, Warhol turned his attention to mythical figures, such as Mickey Mouse and Superman.
Warhol died on 22 February 1987 after a routine gall bladder operation.