Andy Warhol, Prince of Pop

Andy Warhol, Prince of Pop

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by Jan Greenberg, Sandra Jordan

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“IN THE FUTURE EVERYBODY will be world famous for 15 minutes.”

The Campbell’s Soup Cans. The Marilyns. The Electric Chairs. The Flowers. The work created by Andy Warhol elevated everyday images to art, ensuring Warhol a fame that has far outlasted the 15 minutes he predicted for everyone else. His very name is synonymous with the 1960s

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“IN THE FUTURE EVERYBODY will be world famous for 15 minutes.”

The Campbell’s Soup Cans. The Marilyns. The Electric Chairs. The Flowers. The work created by Andy Warhol elevated everyday images to art, ensuring Warhol a fame that has far outlasted the 15 minutes he predicted for everyone else. His very name is synonymous with the 1960s American art movement known as Pop.

But Warhol’s oeuvre was the sum of many parts. He not only produced iconic art that blended high and popular culture; he also made controversial films, starring his entourage of the beautiful and outrageous; he launched Interview, a slick magazine that continues to sell today; and he reveled in leading the vanguard of New York’s hipster lifestyle. The Factory, Warhol’s studio and den of social happenings, was the place to be.

Who would have predicted that this eccentric boy, the Pittsburgh-bred son of Eastern European immigrants, would catapult himself into media superstardom? Warhol’s rise, from poverty to wealth, from obscurity to status as a Pop icon, is an absorbing tale—one in which the American dream of fame and fortune is played out in all of its success and its excess. No artist of the late 20th century took the pulse of his time—and ours—better than Andy Warhol.

Praise for Vincent van Gogh: Portrait of an Artist:

“This outstanding, well-researched biography is fascinating reading.”—School Library Journal, Starred

“Readers will see not just the man but also the paintings anew.”—The Bulletin, Starred

“An exceptional biography that reveals the humanity behind the myth.”—Booklist, Starred

A Robert F. Sibert Honor Book

An ALA Notable Book

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"By the end, the man and the myth have become one." - Kirkus Reviews, Starred

"Greenberg and Jordan offer a riveting biography that humanizes their controversial subject without making judgments or sensationalizing. Their lucid insight into the art is also exceptional." - Booklist, Starred

"As usual for this author pairing, the text is a model of thorough and inventive research." - The Bulletin, Starred

Publishers Weekly
Biographers Greenberg and Jordan (who teamed up for Chuck Close Up Close and Action Jackson) give a personable account of "the wiggy artist from Pittsburgh." In this generous book, which makes the artist's eccentricities seem more delightful than misanthropic, Warhol comes off as a social misfit to whom people gravitate. "[T]he secret of Andy's success was his own self-effacement," says his assistant, Gerard Malanga. Warhol's na vet -initially genuine, then calculated-impresses others during his indulged childhood, at art school and in his early design career. His offbeat manner captivates impresarios and opportunistic "Superstars" who flock to his work space, the Factory. Greenberg and Jordan don't tiptoe around his homosexuality, naming his lovers and also a crush on Truman Capote, who called him a "born loser." They depict his notorious Pop choices as serendipity; he seems to stumble into fortune and fame. When a boyfriend suggests that Andy buy a hairpiece, he starts wearing wigs. Stuck for ideas, he asks for advice, and a consultant changes history by saying, "You like money. You should paint that." Recollections from associates balance nicely with art reviews and descriptions of his painting, printmaking and filmmaking, although the photos and art reproductions, clustered at the end of the book, could be better placed to illustrate the text. Warhol cultivates a shallow persona and superficial art (with its "flat, thick lines, gaudy color, a machine-induced image"), but this enthusiastic bio revels in his kooky mysteriousness and renders him a role model for determined nonconformists. It makes a vibrant companion to James Warhola's picture-book memoir, Uncle Andy's. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Following Andy Warhol's eccentric life from his early days growing up in a grimy immigrant ghetto in Pittsburgh to his flamboyant career in the art world, this selection takes the artist's life and gives it structure beyond the flash of his pop art. Warhol managed to stand out even as a young teen, attracting editors from well-known magazines looking for something different, something fresh. Presenting a time line of his life, each chapter offers another look at the development of an artist, from Warhol's early inspiration of soup cans through his love of celebrities and on to his discovery of the silk-screening process. Touching on some of the darkness that also surrounded Warhol's life, later chapters discuss the violence, drug use, and sexual experimentation that thrived in the freeform existence of The Factory, Warhol's studio. Relying on a compilation of interviews and textual research, this look at Warhol is both informative and readable. Although not an exhaustive treatment of his work or life, it should be enough to satisfy most research needs and casual interest. A color insert of photographs and reproductions of Warhol's work is to be included but was not available for review. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, Random House, 176p.; Glossary. Illus. Photos. Source Notes. Further Reading., and PLB Ages 12 to 15.
—Heather Hepler
Children's Literature
In tune with their subject, Greenberg and Jordan's biography of Andy Warhol (1928-1987) is a smooth, trendy read. From his sickly Pittsburgh childhood to his well-planned assault on the New York City cultural scene, the man who proclaimed, "In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes," is shown working relentlessly for his own fifteen minutes of fame. Along the way, a description of the methodology behind his most famous works—the silkscreen portraits—is given; his decadent sixties' Factory scene comes to life; interminable movies are made and flop; Interview magazine is born. The curious dichotomy of a very private person who craved the limelight is made again and again. One is left wondering whether Warhol really was a genius, or just a guy who kept saying, "I like boring things . . . I want to be a machine." The book is designed as a series of consecutive essays set off by Warhol quotes, with an art insert section. The type and layout are as cool as Warhol, though more snap would have benefited the color reproductions. 2004, Delacorte, Ages 12 up.
—Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Warhol's career spanned advertising, painting, filmmaking, and magazine publishing. This competent, well-documented biography covers his childhood and art school years in Pittsburgh, his successful career in commercial art, and his rise in the Pop Art movement. Chapters also cover his dependence on his mother; his pursuit of celebrity; the lively social, drug, and art scene at his studio (christened the "Factory"); a near-fatal shooting; and his death at age 59. The authors provide a good balance of personal and art history, showing how Warhol's signature silkscreen soup cans and portraits were rooted in his commercial beginnings and 1960s commentary on consumerism. Throughout, they provide insight into specific works of art and their relationship to one another. Their liberal use of quotes by Warhol and his contemporaries paints a picture of a man who was often flip or evasive, who wore a very public persona but was extremely guarded about his personal life. The excellent glossary will aid students new to art terms. From the cover design to the quality of the paper and well-selected reproductions and photos, this is attractive bookmaking. While this eccentric, enigmatic subject is not likely to engender affection among readers, they will finish the book with an understanding of his legacy to the art world.-Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A riveting biography of one of the late-20th-century's most fascinating and inscrutable figures. Greenberg and Jordan have set themselves a difficult task, writing the life of an individual who did his best to interpose a facade between himself and the world at all times, but they pull it off, in part by letting their subject's metamorphosis govern their text. They begin at the beginning, with Warhol's childhood infatuation with Shirley Temple and follow their subject to art school and beyond, when he began experimenting with both art and life to the point where they became one and the same. Warhol's determination to create himself and his world marks one of the central themes, as it must; his alienation from the world he effectively escapes is its mirror. Liberally incorporating quotations from interviews and reminiscences, the narrative moves back and forth from explication of Warhol's art and methods to an almost awed (and frequently very funny) chronicling of the ever-increasing weirdness of Warhol's life and work. By the end, the man and the myth have become one-Warhol would've liked that. (full-color insert of selected art, chronology, glossary, filmography, bibliography, notes, sources) (Biography. YA)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
4.25(w) x 7.06(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Pittsburgh Days 1928-1940

I never wanted to be a painter. I wanted to be a tap dancer. —Andy Warhol

He loved her. Entranced, he sat in the darkened movie theater while child star Shirley Temple tap-danced her way into his heart. In Poor Little Rich Girl, the silver-screen charmer with the adorable dimples and fifty-six golden curls triumphed over adversity with a smile. In Andy's world, work was grueling, but Shirley made it look like fun. He stored away impressions of his idol to imitate later on. For now, Andy worshipped Shirley from afar, even sending off a dime to join her fan club. The photograph that came in the mail was signed "To Andrew Warhola, from Shirley Temple." Carefully placed in a scrapbook, it would remain one of Andy's treasured possessions. This marked the beginning of his lasting passion for celebrities, collecting their autographs and photos, creating a fantasy life that would determine his future.

Both were eight years old, born in 1928, but how different Shirley's life was from Andy's. He could dream about being a Hollywood star; life in Pittsburgh offered a grimmer picture. "Being born," Andy later said, "is like being kidnapped. And then sold into slavery."

Andy came into the world in the back bedroom of his family's tiny apartment at 73 Orr Street in Pittsburgh's grimy immigrant ghetto. Shortly after his birth, his father, Andrej Warhola, lost his construction job, and the family moved to an even more cramped two-room apartment. Andy shared a bed with his older brothers, Paul and John. The bathtub sat in the middle of the kitchen—convenient because with the apartment's primitive plumbing, anyone wanting hot water had to heat it on the stove. In the alley behind the building was a communal privy.

The precocious Andy walked and talked early, and it was clear to everyone that he was bright, if a bit of a handful. His blond, cherubic looks were a contrast to those of his more robust brothers, and his mother, Julia, deciding her youngest child's health was delicate, coddled him. Although they didn't own a radio (and commercial television didn't exist), they found ways to entertain themselves. When the boys' games grew too rambunctious for the family's close quarters, Julia brought them into the kitchen, gave them paper and crayons, and announced a contest for the best drawing. Julia was artistic, and all three Warhola boys inherited some of her gift, but Andy easily outstripped his brothers. He might have been the youngest, but he always won the giant Hershey bar Julia offered as a prize.

From the beginning, making art was what Andy liked to do best. His brother John remembered a neighborhood baseball game where Andy reluctantly took a position in the outfield. "Someone hit a baseball where Andy was supposed to be, and Andy wasn't there. I later found him sitting in front of the house drawing flowers. Andy never argued, he never swore, he didn't go in for rough stuff. I always thought he was going to be a priest."

Andy isn't known to have considered that possibility, but he dutifully attended church with Julia during the week as well as on Sunday. The Byzantine Catholic Church loomed large in the devout Warhola family. From their apartment they walked three miles down a winding road and across the railroad tracks to St. John Chrysostom. "Rain or shine, there were no excuses," John recalled. The priest sat all the boys—including Andy—in the first row, where they at least had to pretend to pay attention during the long service. At the altar stood a golden screen, closely hung with square upon square, row upon row of icons—sacred paintings of saints. These repetitive images would have a profound effect on Andy's art.

Their father insisted that Sunday be strictly observed, but John remembered it as a joyous time, mainly because of Julia's influence. "My mother . . . liked going to church better than material things. She never believed in being wealthy—she believed just being a real good person made you happy. We were taught never to hurt anybody, to believe you're just here for a short time and you're going to leave the material things behind."

There weren't many material things to leave. Andy's family originated in Carpatho-Ruthenia, a poor farming area of the Carpathian Mountains that was passed back and forth in the constant wars and border disputes among Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, and Hungary. Andrej and Julia Warhola—along with many members of both of their families—came to America seeking work and a better life.

The Pittsburgh where the Warholas settled was a far different town in the 1920s and 1930s than it is today. Located at the point where three rivers meet, it was the bustling steelmaking capital of America. Iron ore arrived from vast strip mines in northern Minnesota, coal from Pennsylvania. Even when unemployment was high during the Great Depression of the thirties, and labor protesters and private policemen fought in the streets of the city, the steel mills roared twenty-four hours a day, filling the daytime sky with so much smoke that drivers had to keep their headlights on. The word smog was invented to describe the sooty air that hung over Pittsburgh. At night the Bessemer converters in the steel mills lit up the sky like fireworks, and small trains left the mills and dumped the hot, glowing slag on the hillsides, where it cascaded down in burning rivulets.

Many other groups of Middle Europeans populated the neighborhood called Soho, where the Warhola family lived. They all had been lured there by the promise of America, the land of golden opportunity; instead they found backbreaking, often dangerous jobs that paid meager wages. The cheaply built housing that was all they could afford sometimes lacked even the basics of heat, hot water, and safe sanitation. Disease was a constant threat. Nobody seemed to care. The immigrants were treated as interlopers in their adopted country, despised for their imperfect English, their strange customs, and most of all for their poverty.

However, in several respects Andy was fortunate. His father managed to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads during the toughest years of the Depression. He labored six days a week, twelve hours a day, taking odd jobs when he was laid off from construction work. Sundays were spent in church. After the long service, the Warholas visited the various aunts, uncles, and cousins who also had moved to the Pittsburgh area. Unlike many of his fellows, Andrej saved his money and did not drink or gamble to relieve the stress of his unremitting drudgery. His critics, some of them within the family, went so far as to call him a tightfisted workaholic. Andy inherited both his father's capacity for hard work and his thrifty nature.

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Meet the Author

Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan are the authors of numerous acclaimed books about art, including Vincent van Gogh: Portrait of an Artist; Action Jackson; Runaway Girl: The Artist Louise Bourgeois; and Chuck Close Up Close. The authors live in St. Louis, MO, and New York City respectively.

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