Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was painter and illustrator, photographer and film-maker; he published magazines and books; he ran the Factory, gave musicians and models a helping hand up on their way to fame – there is not much in the cultural activity of New York in the 1960s to 80s which he doesn’t observe with a shrewd eye and often helps to shape. It is a less well-known fact that Warhol begins his career in the 1940s as a graphic designer. He achieves great success with illustrations for prospectuses and books and shows this work in his first exhibitions. When he switches from being an illustrator to living as an independent artist in the early 1960s, he gives up drawing superficially pleasing illustrations and creates large-scale paintings depicting details from the world of advertising and the tabloid press. In his own unmistakable way, he overprints and overpaints black-and-white photos with coloured planes, traces the outlines with elegant penstrokes and above all, repeates the same motifs again and again. The international breakthrough for Warhol comes in 1964/65. It is during this period that, at the request of art gallery owners, he begins to print his first posters. Like the paintings and his limited-edition graphic prints, they show stars from Elizabeth Taylor to Mick Jagger, or the banalities of the world of consumerism, whether soup cans or cows. From the early “mailers” – sent out by the gallery owner Leo Castelli – up to the late reproductions of series of paintings, they now proclaim Warhol’s international
success. Images courtesy: Museum fuer Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg.