Happy Mother’s Day, Julia Warhola

Andy Warhol’s mother Julia Warhola immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe in 1921, joining her husband Andrej who had left for America nearly eight years prior. The couple had three sons, Paul, John, and Andrew (Andy), the youngest, who was born in 1928.

Julia and Warhol had a close relationship. Like most great mothers, Julia cared for him during childhood illnesses and encouraged him to develop his artistic talent, having artistic inclinations herself, and in 1952 she left her home on Dawson Street in Pittsburgh, PA, to move into her son’s New York City apartment.

The pair began to collaborate on a number of projects, Warhol often enlisting his mother to add her old-fashioned penmanship to hundreds of his drawings, from advertisements to album covers to book illustrations. Julia penned “The Exotic Calf” onto a work Warhol illustrated for Flaming-Joffe Ltd., a small leather goods company he produced advertisements for in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and her detailed penmanship adorns the ca. 1961 drawing Horoscopes for the Cocktail Hour (“Champagne Cocktail”), included in the book Horoscopes for the Cocktail Hour by Robert Cumming and Warhol.[1]

 

A pink cherub sits on the edge of a cocktail glass filled with green liquid and strawberries. In the top left corner, a cocktail recipe is written in old-fashioned handwriting.

Andy Warhol, Horoscopes for the Cocktail Hour (“Champagne Cocktail”), ca. 1961, © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Among her favorite subjects to draw were angels and cats, and Julia is perhaps best known for her calligraphy in 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy (Warhol regularly kept the misspellings and errors in his mother’s texts, noted by the missing ‘d’ in ‘Named’). This book—a collaboration between Julia and her son—was published in 1954 and features 17 cat illustrations in Warhol’s signature blotted line style. The book was followed in 1960 by Holy Cats by Andy Warhol’s Mother, a 22-page tome featuring Julia’s cat and angel drawings and her calligraphy.

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Andy Warhol, 25 Cats Name[d] Sam and One Blue Pussy, ca. 1954, © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

The pair also collaborated on the 1959 book Wild Raspberries with interior designer Suzie Frankfurt. Julia wrote Frankfurt’s simple recipes alongside Warhol’s illustrations.[2]

On the left is an ink blot drawing of a yellow fish on an orange platter. To the write is a block of handwriting.

Andy Warhol, “When you are in the Caribbean this Winter…” (Fish Under Glass), ca. 1959, © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

 

Julia remained in New York until 1971, when upon returning to Pittsburgh for a visit she suffered a stroke. She passed away the following year and was buried next to her husband in Bethal Park, PA, in St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery, the same cemetery where Warhol was laid to rest in 1987. You can see a live feed of the family plots through our Figment project.

Here’s to a happy mother’s day spent with friends and family, and hopefully some cats and angels too.

 

[1] “Champagne Cocktail” Place, with finesse, one lump sugar in cold champagne glass. Add a dash of aromatic bitters and a cube of ice. Fill glass with sparkling, chilled champagne. Elegant Librans enjoy their champagne on strawberries

[2] When you are in the Caribbean this Winter and have live Fish at your disposal Prepare a Waterzoie For any late afternoon snack. Any Fish will do. Scale and clean the fish and drop into a Pan with just enough cold salt water to cover, add a piece of bitter parsely [sic] roots and a few peppercorns, set to cook on a large open fire and serve in an earthenware timbale, (ED. note … since peppercorns are not available in the tropics be certain to xxx procure a supply From new york before you leave.)

Jessica Warchall

Communications Manager