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Andy Warhol: From Nowhere to Up There

an oral history of Andy Warhol's early years

by Gary Comenas

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page fourteen

Charlie Scheips (Curator): Warhol enthusiasts are aware that he worked for Harper’s Bazaar with some frequency; but few know that Warhol created literally hundreds of illustration and dozens of art-designed spreads between 1951 and 1964 for the magazine… The first illustration credited to Andy Warhol in Harper’s Bazaar appeared in the September 1951 issue of the magazine. Warhol illustrated both handbags and shoes for that Junior Bazaar feature. (AM2)

Penelope Rowlands (writer): When [Alexy] Brodovitch [art director of Harper’s from 1938-1958] hired a young assistant named Adrian Gilbert Johns, known as A.G. after the initials for her first and middle names, in the early 1950s, she became a kind of ideal daughter to Carmel, the latest in a long line. A.G. (whose name became Allen through marriage) was the daughter of Sandra Johns, who had contributed fashion illustrations to the magazine since the mid-1940s… One of Allen’s friends was a young illustrator named Andy Warhola… (PR421)

Charlie Scheips: The artist remembered one particular episode from this era in his 1975 book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: ‘I’ll never forget the humiliation of bringing my portfolio up to Carmel Snow’s office and unzipping it only to have a roach crawl out and down the leg of the table. She felt so sorry for me that she gave me a job.’ (AM2)

[Note: According to Interview magazine editor, Bob Colacello, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) - credited to Warhol as the author - was actually written by Colacello, Warhol’s secretary Pat Hackett and Warhol’s confidante and superstar, Brigid Berlin. Colacello notes: “Nine chapters were wholly hers [Hackett’s]; four were mostly mine; one, 'The Tingle,' was Brigid's, and all three of us had worked on the prologue." (BC309) According to Hackett, “I did eight separate interviews with Andy on the basis of which I wrote chapters 1 through 8 and chapter 10. Then, using material from conversations Andy had taped between himself and Bob Colacello and Brigid Berlin, I wrote the introductory chapter and chapters 9, 11, 12, 13 and 14.” (AWDXV) g.c.]

Bob Colacello: …Andy loved to tell me tales of what he called ‘my cockroach period,’ and his favorite has been repeated in every book written about him. He’d never forget the day, it goes, that he finally got an appointment to show his work to Carmel Snow, the white-gloved editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar. When she opened the portfolio, he said, a cockroach crawled out and ran across her desk, and she felt so sorry for him that she gave him an assignment. It never happened – not to Andy, anyway. Philip Pearlstein says that it was his appointment, his portfolio, his cockroach – and that Mrs. Snow was so horrified that he didn’t get the job. (BC21)

David Bourdon: By June 1951 he [Warhol] resurfaced at 218 75th Street near Third Avenue, where his telephone was listed under Victor Reilly’s name . (The dancer apparently lived elsewhere.) In 1952, Warhol, though still listed in the telephone book as Victor Reilly with the same number, was living next door at 216 East 75th Street in a depressing, mouse-infested, cold-water flat… (DB30)

Robert Fleisher: … He moved into an apartment in the 70s, a walk-up tenement with a bathtub up on legs - that kind of place - with his mother and a million cats. Very few people ever got to that apartment. He didn’t like people in [it]. Someway, he tried to hide his mother. I always felt that he was hiding her. He was ashamed that she didn’t speak English - all that kind of stuff. (PSC114)

Paul Warhola: Mother lived with him for twenty years and we visited quite often. While mother was alive we would drive up to Andy's any time when Andy was going away and mother wasn't quite well. Andy would call me and ask me to stay with her for a week or two until he got back. Otherwise we often talked on the telephone - Andy always said, 'Call me any time, reverse the charges. Don't worry about the expense.' Andy was very generous. He was always worried about us, whether we had enough money, enough to pay the bills, about our income and so on. (RU72)

Robert Fleisher: He [Warhol] was very, very thin. Very shy and very white skin, and his hair was very blonde then in those days, very pale - almost albino, but not quite. He had eye trouble. And he didn’t bathe terribly regularly. He did allow me to come up to that apartment a few times. (PSC114)

Fred Lawrence Guiles: Sensitive about his baby-fine thinking hair, in 1951 he acquired his first hairpiece. It was brown and undistinguished looking, but a year or so later he purchased a better one that was blond as his own hair had been. He would not be seen in his trade-mark silver wig until the 1960s. (FG82)

Robert Fleisher: The bathtub was always filled with dyes and water because he used to make his own paper. He had a technique of putting paper through dyes in the water that made it look like that old Italian and French endpaper. The bathtub was always filled with that stuff. So, I assumed, that’s why he didn’t bathe.

And, then, he would draw on it to sketch or what have you. He was trying lots of techniques in those days but mostly life drawings. He always had a sketchbook. He always had a pad with him. He always traveled with something to sketch with.

He didn’t talk very much. He was very, very shy, and I never, in  the 10 or 12 years that I knew him, I don’t think I hardly had a conversation with him. I was in the same room with him. I was alone with him a lot, but never, really, conversation. You’d talk, and he’d ask questions and very intimate questions. But he would never, never really have a conversation, or he would never respond too much about himself. Occasionally he did, but you never knew what he felt, politically…

Andy loved to sketch models and very intimate sexual acts. Really! And Andy sketched us screwing a couple of times. Andy would get very, very excited. He wouldn’t quite join in, but he loved watching. He would very often to draw me nude and see me with an erection, but he never actually touched me. And I think that I never really put myself in a position of letting him or leading him on, or that I was interested physically, because I wasn’t. And at one time he said that he got so hot when he saw men with erections that he couldn’t have an orgasm himself. But he started to strip that day. ‘And wasn’t it all right if he sketched in his Jockey shorts?’ And he did. And I was really upset. And it kind of confirmed what I had thought about Andy’s personal habits in those days. (PSC114-15)

Heiner Bastian: … Warhol’s portraits of men have the charm of erotic allusion because they admit their hidden or open associations. These drawings can also be seen as a mirror of Warhol’s life at the time; they are perhaps amongst the most poetic examples of his work during the 1950s… In some of these captured moments, the drawing has an affinity to portraits by Jean Cocteau; to studies that Cocteau made in the early 1920s of his friend Raymond Radiguet…

In June 1952 Warhol had an exhibition at Alexandre Iola’s Hugo Gallery, New York, of large format, coloured works which he had made after reading texts by Truman Capote. Not a single piece from the exhibition was sold… Nevertheless the exhibition was a success as far as Warhol was concerned because Truman Capote – the stunningly good-looking author, the idol of unattainable celebrity – had seen the work. (HB19)

David Bourdon: In May 1952, Warhol brought his Capote drawings into the Hugo Gallery on East 55th Street and showed them to the flamboyant proprietor, Alexandre Iolas, a former ballet dancer in his mid-forties who dressed and carried himself as if he were still on center stage. (DB32)

Laura de Coppet/Alan Jones (writers): Alexandre Iolas (1908-1987) was born in Egypt, and ran away from the family cotton business to study ballet in Paris. There his interest gradually shifted from the world of dance to Surrealist art, and he opened the Hugo Gallery in 1944 after arriving in New York. (LC48)

Ioanna Elena Markou (journalist): Naturalized with the help of influential acquaintances, Iolas eventually began work as director for the Hugo Gallery, an art gallery on 55th Street established by Robert Rothschild, cosmetics empress Elizabeth Arden, and Maria Hugo (who was married to French writer Victor Hugo’s grandson Jean, hence the gallery’s name.) (IM)

Fred Lawrence Guiles: The Hugo Gallery on East 56th Street and Madison Avenue [actually located at 26 E. 55th St. (TK12)) was then concentrating on the work of young artists just starting out, The dealer-owner was Alexandre Iolas and his partner was David Mann. Mann met Andy in the spring of 1952 when, as he recalled, ‘this young man, quite pimply-faced and poor-looking, wandered into the gallery and said, ‘Would you like to look at my things?’ The gallery owner, Iolas, was about to leave for Europe and he suggested that if Mann liked the drawings, they could do the show in June. (FG94)

David Mann: I looked at them and I really liked them very much. They were more interpretive than book illustrations. They were large drawings. We stuck them on a wall a couple of months later. It was a June show. (FG94)

Fred Lawrence Guiles: The show ran from 16 June to 3 July. Mann was impressed with the show and with Andy. Later, he would open his own gallery, the Bodley, where Andy would have three successive shows. (FG95)

to page fifteen

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