America’s most famous 20th century artist.
He studied commercial art in Pittsburgh before moving to New York and a career in
magazine illustration and advertising. During the 1950s, he began to be known for work
outside of illustration, especially ink drawings of shoe advertisements, and slowly built
a reputation as a controversial artist. He held exhibitions at smaller New York and West
Coast galleries, introducing works that have since become icons – dollar bills,
Campbell’s soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles as well images of celebrities like Marilyn
Monroe, Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. He was a founding figure of
the Pop Art movement.
In the 1970s he became less radical and more entrepreneurial. He spent much of his
time canvassing new, rich patrons for portrait commissions —including the Shah of
Iran, Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli, John Lennon and Diana Ross. He worked in
collaboration with assistants and other artists, notably at his studio ‘The Factory’;
actually three successive locations in Manhattan. The Factory became a hangout for
musicians, photographers, filmmakers, artists, intellectuals and wannabes.
He worked intensively using silkscreens to mass-produce images. Musician John Cale
said “It wasn’t called the Factory for nothing. It was where the assembly line for the
silkscreens happened. While one person was making a silkscreen, somebody else would
be filming a screen test. Every day something new.”
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