Friday, September 22, 2006

The Untimely Death of Andy Warhol

Portrait of Andy Warhol by Jamie Wyeth

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. –Andy Warhol

The other night I watch the PBS American Master’s presentation on the Life of Andy Warhol. The program provided quite a bit of information about this unique American artist that I had not known.

Forty or so years ago, when I was in college and living in a dingy little room over a bar, I had cut a reproduction of Warhol’s painting, Campbell’s (Tomato) Soup Can, from a magazine, framed it, and placed it on the room’s wall in an attempt to overcome the room’s drabness. When one of my friends, who was unfamiliar with Warhol’s work, visited the room, he asked me why I had a photograph of a soup can hanging on my wall. I responded that it wasn’t a photograph, but a painting, and the reason I placed it in my room was because Warhol’s painting was more realistic than a photograph. “Besides,” I said, “who is his right mind would place hang a picture of a soup can on his wall?”

Also while in college, I attended the screenings of a few of Warhol’s films. I was impressed; however, I never really became a true aficionado of Warhol. Through the years I would read of his work, but when I began collecting prints for the houses in which I have lived, there were no works by Warhol.

Viewing the American Master’s presentation on the Life of Andy Warhol has, however, renewed my interest in him. His great creativity and experimentation in so many art forms is to me a breath of fresh air in today’s world of artistic stagnation.

The new information I learned about Warhol related to his death. He should not have died at age 58. For months he had suffered pain in the gall bladder. I personally know the severity of that kind of pain, because I have suffered it. Still, Warhol refused to enter hospital to have his gall bladder removed. He had previously had a terrible experience in a hospital and had a premonition that another hospitalization could kill him.

His intuition was correct. Officially, Andy Warhol died February 22, 1987 from “complications after a gall bladder operation.” It was later determined that those “complications” resulted from hospital error: too much fluid was fed into him intravenously and he literally drowned. His condition was unmonitored and it is now suspected that notations on his hospital chart were added after his death.

The following year, 1988, an auction of Warhol’s vast collection of art and antiques was held. This auction lasted for ten days and raised over $20 million for The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. In 1989 The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh was planned. It opened in 1994.

The art of Andy Warhol continues to have its impact on the world. His painting of a can of Campbell’s pepper pot soup recently sold at auction for a record $11.8-million.

What bothers me deeply about the untimely and unnecessary death of Andy Warhol is of which I have so recently learned the details is that hospital error continues: it has just claimed the lives to three premature infants in an Indianapolis hospital. It could happen so easily and to anyone. When I had my gall bladder removed—a simple operation that now is usually performed on an out patient basis—I found myself hospitalized over night, rather than going home following the surgery. The problem? I had been inadvertently given too much anesthesia. Likewise, a fellow pastor and a close friend died in a Louisville hospital a couple of years ago. Again, it was hospital error.

Some Andy Warhol Internet Links

The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh

Andy Warhol

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

Andy Warhol On-line

Andy Warhol Biography

Warhol Stars

Andy Warhol Filmography

Andy Warhol's Marilyn Prints

Senses of Cinema: Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol Prints

Andy Warhol Quotes


  1. Great post and good links. I had heard his name but knew nothing about him until I read what you wrote.

  2. Great post! Yeah - I've been thinking of him. Very good documentary, huh?

  3. It doesn't seem like it's been that long...

    & I also wasn't aware that he died due to hospital error!

  4. I have long felt he didn't get the credit he deserved. There are seven billion people on earth, but when you see an Andy Warhol print, you know it's his. That sort of creativity is rare.

  5. I appreciate the links to AW's films. I didnot know he even made films.

  6. OMG AWESOME POST!!!!! I love the links & portrate! :o)

  7. Great post, Nick! The manner of death here is tragic and just a sad waste. I was unaware of this fact.

  8. neat never herd of him before thnx