Before making it big as the face of pop art, Andy Warhol studied commercial art at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute of Technology (now known as Carnegie Mellon University), where he studied from 1945 to 1949. Throughout those years, he made several paintings that eventually fell into the hands of his relatives, after he moved to New York. Now, his remaining family members plan to sell these artworks at auction.
For fans of Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe silkscreens and Campbell’s soup cans, these paintings may be borderline unrecognisable. One, Living Room (1947), is a still life in muted watercolours, with nods to his Catholic upbringing. Another, 1948’s Nose Picker 1 (the first in a series of nose-picking-themed paintings) is similarly murky, though it bears hints at his humorous side.
In total, ten paintings from this period will be sold with the oversight of Warhol’s nephew, James Warhola (the artist decided to drop the A early in his career) and his six siblings. Only 14 such works are said to have survived.
Warhola – himself an illustrator, who paid tribute to his uncle in the children’s book Uncle Andy’s – inherited the artworks from his parents, Paul and Anne Warhola, who died in 2014 and 2016. Paul was one of Warhol’s two brothers, and is credited with saving the artworks from being thrown out when the artist, freshly graduated, moved to NYC.
“In a way, I’ve been a caretaker of the family artwork collection that my father kept when Andy left for New York, but they’re shared by seven of us, because they’re part of my parents’ estate,” Warhola tells the Pennsylvania-based Tribune Review, which broke the news about the sale.
“Our parents passed away several years ago, so that’s one of the reasons we’ve had to consider selling them. It’s not something we’ve wanted to do, but it’s the only way you divvy up an estate, and there’s a whole bunch of us who could use a few extra dollars.”
Speaking about the artworks themselves, he adds: “They’re really special because they showed my uncle’s aspirations as a young art student wanting to be a fine artist. I always say, before there was the soup can, there was the Nosepicker.”
The family are yet to decide on an auction house for the sale, and estimated values are still TBC – proceeds will be split between James Warhola and his siblings.In the meantime, you can take a closer look at Living Room, Nose Picker 1, and more of Andy Warhol’s college artworks via a catalogue on the website run by his family.