Andy Warhol: An Insight into the Legendary Artist’s Career and Mind

Andy Warhol, Self Portrait, 1978

While I’ve always appreciated the arts, I myself am the furthest thing from artistic. All of my art knowledge comes from an AP art history class I took in high school.

Still, I enjoyed learning about the different artists and the meanings behind their most famous works. In particular, I took an interest to Andy Warhol, whose work has spanned generations, as I studied contemporary art. Warhol is best known for his pop art, bright, colorful depictions of iconic characters and of course his personality. I questioned if I was more fascinated with the artwork or the man himself, who led quite a public life but at the same time remained private, and how much is still a mystery.

I had the opportunity to gain more insight into Warhol’s mind at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, which is currently showing Andy Warhol: Portraits. The exhibit is on loan from The Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh until August 19, and it’s the first time outside of the Warhol Museum that it’s been exhibited in the U.S., says Alison Byrne the director of Exhibitions and Education at MOCA.

The exhibit features more than 130 portraits, spanning Warhol’s career from the 1940s to 80s. “He had a reputation for having a cool, detached demeanor and yet, he was able to make acquaintance with all the leading artists, entertainers, politicians, fashion models and international socialites of the day,” Byrne says. These acquaintances were the subjects of Warhol’s work. Portraits that I instantly recognized were those of Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, Prince, Truman Capote and of course, Warhol himself.

“He saw the artist as celebrity and businessman and entrepreneur,” Byrne said. This could explain why Warhol was so inspired by fame, popular culture, advertising and the news.

According to Byrne, Warhol “may be the single most famous artist of the 20th century,” and his work interests museum guests of all ages. She believes that the artist is both known for his work and his engaging—at times eccentric—personality. “Warhol's legacy endures both in his paintings that are so recognizable and iconic and in the life and myths surrounding the artist…his work was as much a reflection on his artistic and personal identity as the culture of our time…,” Byrne says.

Perhaps the iconic artist said it best himself. "If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There's nothing behind it."

The Andy Warhol: Portraits exhibit will be on display until August 19, 2012. For more information, call 757-425-0000 or visit

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