Andy Warhol: 1928 – 1987

Born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Andy Warhol was a painter, printmaker, and filmmaker and a  pivotal figure in the formation of the  Pop Art movement.

Warhol was the son of working-class Slovakian immigrants. His frequent illnesses in childhood often kept him bedridden and at home. During this time, he formed a strong bond with his mother.  It was what he describes an important period in the formation of his personality and skill set.

Warhol studied at the School of Fine Arts at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh (now Carnegie Mellon University), majoring in pictorial design. In 1949, he moved to New York City where he quickly became successful in magazine illustration and advertising, producing work for publications such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and the The New Yorker.

Much of Warhol’s work the 1950’s was commissioned by fashion houses and he became known for his whimsical ink drawings of I. Miller shoes. In 1952, Warhol’s illustrations for Truman Capote’s writings were exhibited by the Hugo Gallery in New York and he exhibited at several other venues in the 1950′s including a 1956 group show at the Museum of Modern Art. Warhol received several awards during this decade from the Art Director’s Club and the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

Warhol was enthralled with Hollywood celebrities, fashion, and style and by the early 1960’s these interests were reflected in his artwork. Borrowing images from popular culture, Warhol’s “Pop Art” paintings were characterized by repetition of everyday objects such as soup cans, Coca Cola bottles, and 100 dollar bills.  He also began painting celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Most of Warhol’s paintings were produced in his studio that he called “The Factory” with the help of assistants. Photographic images were screen-printed on to painted backgrounds and mechanically repeated – a process that mimicked the manufacturing industry and parodied mass consumption. During the Factory years, Warhol associated with and “groomed” a variety of artists, writers, musicians, and underground celebrities including Edie Sedgwick, Viva, writer John Giorno, and film-maker Jack Smith.

Warhol worked prolifically in a range of media including painting, photography, drawing, sculpture, and film. Between 1963 and 1968 he produced more than 60 films and about 500 short “screen test” portraits of his studio visitors. His most popular and successful film was Chelsea Girls, made in 1966.

On June 3, 1968, Warhol and art critic/curator Mario Amaya, were shot by Valerie Solanas after she was turned away from the Factory studio. Warhol’s wound was almost fatal and would affect him physically and mentally for the rest of his life.

The 1970’s was a quieter decade for Warhol who concentrated more on portrait commissions for celebrities such as Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, and others.  He founded Interview Magazine and in 1975 published “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol” which expressed the idea that “Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art.” During the 1970’s Warhol was also involved in a number collaborations with young artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente and Keith Haring.

In general, Andy Warhol was consistently ambiguous on the meaning of his work and appeared indifferent and ambivalent. He denied that his artwork carried any social or political commentary.

Warhol died in New York City on February 22, 1987 of a cardiac arrhythmia while recovering from routine gallbladder surgery. In his will, almost his entire estate was dedicated to the “advancement of the visual arts”. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was founded in that same year and it remains one of the largest grant-giving organizations for the visual arts in the United States today.

Sources: MOMA, Guggenheim, National Gallery of Canada, Andy Warhol Foundation, Wikipedia

George Tooker: 1920 – 2011

Born on August 5, 1920, in Brooklyn, New York, George Clair Tooker Jr. grew up in suburban Bellport, Long Island and took painting lessons from a family friend as a child.  Tooker  graduated from Harvard University in 1942 where he studied English Literature and continued to pursue his interest in art.

Tooker was discharged from officer training school in the U.S. Marines during World War II due to illness brought on by stress. In 1943, he enrolled in the Art Students League in New York and studied under leading social realist painters Reginald Marsh and Kenneth Hayes Miller.  Tooker was introduced to the medium of egg tempera by painter Paul Cadmus, with whom he spent six months together traveling and studying art in Italy and France in 1949. In 1949, Tooker also met painter William Christopher, who became his lifelong companion.

In 1950, Tooker began to earn both recognition and income from his art and in 1953, the Whitney Museum bought his best-known painting, The Subway. Further recognition followed, beginning with a solo exhibition at a New York gallery in 1951; followed by four  more solo shows and numerous group exhibitions.

“Working on wood panels or Masonite board, Tooker painstakingly built luminous matte surfaces, inch by square inch; soft, powdery colors complemented the rounded forms and fabrics of the paintings.” His early work depicted social and public issues, and stresses the loneliness and alienation of modern urban existence. In the 1970s, the Tooker began to explore more personal states of being expressed in symbolic imagery, often drawn from the bible, mythology, and classic literature.

Tooker’s works have been associated with the Magic Realism and Social Realism movements but he resisted attempts to define his works as such. “I am after reality — painting impressed on the mind so hard that it recurs as a dream,” he said, “but I am not after dreams as such, or fantasy.”

In 1960, Tooker and Christopher moved to Vermont, where they had a weekend home. Tooker taught at the Art Students League between 1965 and 1968, and they spent winters on the Mediterranean coast of Spain as Christopher’s health declined. Tooker returned to Vermont, in 1973 after Christopher’s death.

“In the 1970s, the Tooker began to explore more personal states of being expressed in symbolic imagery, often drawn from the bible, mythology, and classic literature. Tooker, though greatly respected, remained apart from the modernist trends that dominated American art for much of the second half of the twentieth century.”

In 2007, Tooker was awarded the National Medal of Arts – the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States Government.

George Tooker died on March 27, 2011 at his home in Hartland, Vermont.  He was 90 years old.

Sources: New York Times, Terra Foundation
Post inspired by David Platt

Visit To Picasso: Paul Haesaerts

Visite Picasso is a classic documentary by dir. Paul Haesaerts which features the frequently used footage of Picasso painting on glass while a camera films him from the other side. The trick of filming thru glass allows the viewer to witness Picasso’s true genius as he paints his famous Torros with just a few well-placed brushstrokes. Shot in beautiful black and white in Picasso’s home in Vallauris, the film is a poetic treatment of the master-painter. (from DocsOnline)

Edward Hopper: 1882-1967

hopper-nighthawksBorn on July 22, 1882 in Nyack, New York, Edward Hopper is considered to be one of America’s greatest realist painters of the twentieth century.

Hopper studied illustration with the Correspondence School of Illustrating in New York City in 1899 and then at the New York School of Art between 1900 and 1906. He studied painting a year later with William Merrit Chase and then Kenneth Hayes Miller and Robert Henri.

In 1906 Hopper traveled to Paris, London, Haarlem, Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels to study works by European artists.   Returning to New York in 1907, he painted and worked part-time as an illustrator for fiction and trade magazines.

Hopper’s first exhibition was a group show, held at the Harmonie Club building in New York in March 1908.

From 1910 Hopper spent his summers painting in rural New England, in Gloucester and Cape Anne, Massachusetts, and Maine. In 1913 he moved to Washington Square, in the Greenwich Village area of New York City, which remained his permanent base. Hopper’s subject matter was derived from two main sources: first, everyday American life such as restaurants, gas stations, theaters, railroads, and street scenes; and second, seascapes and rural landscapes.

Initially, Hopper was more successful as an illustrator and with his etchings, in both sales and exhibitions.  In January 1920 he held his first solo exhibition, of 16 paintings at the Whitney Studio Club but was discouraged by the failure to achieve either sales or critical attention. In 1923, with the encouragement of artist Josephine Verstille Nivison (whom he married in 1924), Hopper began painting in watercolour. In 1924, he had his second solo exhibition at the Frank K. M. Rehn Gallery, which was a critical and commercial success.

From 1930 Edward and Josephine (Jo) began to spend their summers painting in Truro on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where they built a home in 1934.  Hopper was an intensely private person and led a somewhat reclusive life, two characteristics that are reflected in his paintings.  Images of loneliness and detachment pervade Hopper’s works where he often depicted solitary figures (mostly women) who are often occupied with their own thoughts.

Hopper was very productive through the 1930s and early 1940s, producing many of his most important works.  In the late 1940′s however, his health was poor and he underwent several prostate surgeries. Hopper was active again in the 1950s and early 1960s,  producing several more major works.

Both the art world and pop culture has been influenced by Hopper’s work. Many artists have cited him as influential, including Willem de Kooning, Jim Dine, and Mark Rothko. His cinematic compositions and use of light and dark made him popular with filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho), Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), and Sam Mendes (New York Movie) to name a few.

Edward Hopper died on May 15, 1967 in his studio in New York City. Jo, who died 10 months later, left their collection of over three thousand works to the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Related Books:
Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper: A National Gallery of Art Presentation

Edward Hopper: 1882-1967, Vision of Reality

Sources: MOMA, National Gallery of Art, Wikipedia, Artchive (images)