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An introduction to the life and work of Andy Warhol, one of the world’s most famous artists, through exploration of five thematic framings of his life and career: celebrity, sex, money, death and time.


Course at a Glance


About the Course

This course will introduce you to the life and work of Andy Warhol, one of the world’s most famous artists. It will:

  • Explore why Warhol has international standing both within and beyond the art establishment;
  • Examine how artistic worth and value is constructed and attributed;
  • Interrogate some of Warhol’s main thematic concerns and major creative innovations;
  • Position Warhol in relation to major artistic movements of the 20th century (Dada, minimalism, Pop Art, structuralism, etc).
This course has been developed as part of the ARTIST ROOMS research partnership between the University of Edinburgh, Tate, and the National Galleries of Scotland. It is delivered by staff and teaching assistants based in History of Art and the School of Design at Edinburgh College of Art.

Course Syllabus

Week 1: Celebrity

Subjects to be explored will include:

  • Warhol’s early investment in stars and celebrities;
  • Warhol’s screenprints of stars, based on appropriated mass media images: Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Jackie Kennedy, etc.;
  • Warhol’s creation of his own group of ‘superstars’, especially through his filmmaking activities;
  • Warhol’s move from the subcultural scene in the 1960s to mainstream celebrity circles in the 1980s.

Week 2: Sex

Subjects to be explored will include:

  • The common misconception of Warhol as an asexual machine;
  • The regular appearance of homoerotic imagery throughout Warhol’s work: line drawings of boys; ‘tease’ content of films such as My Hustler and Blow Job;
  • Coded sexual content in seemingly banal material (e.g., the World’s Fair mural Thirteen Most Wanted Men);
  • Warhol and censorship.


Week 3: Money

 Subjects to be explored will include:

  • The value of Warhol’s art in the market;
  • Warhol’s drawings and paintings of money, including dollar bills and the dollar sign;
  • Warhol’s successful career as a commercial artist;
  • Warhol’s own arguments about 'business art'.


Week 4: Death

Subjects to be explored will include:

  • The Death and Disaster series of screenprints;
  • Valerie Solanas’ attempted assassination of Warhol in 1968, and the impact this had on his work;
  • Echoes of mortality in Warhol’s later works, including screenprints of guns and skulls, self-portraits with skulls, etc;
  • Arguments by Thomas Crow (‘Saturday Disasters’) and Stephen Koch (Stargazer) about the centrality of death in Warhol’s work.


Week 5: Time

Subjects to be explored will include:

  • The lasting status of Warhol’s most iconic works;
  • Stillness and slowness in some of Warhol’s films and photographs, such as Empire and the Screen Tests series;
  • Warhol’s Time Capsules;
  • Repetition and boredom as central tropes in Warhol’s work.

Recommended Background

No background required.

Suggested Readings

There is no set text for this course, but recommendations will be made each week that relate to the theme being explored.

For those new to studying Warhol, Wayne Koestenbaum's biography Andy Warhol provides a thorough introduction to the artist. For those interested in Warhol's films, the introduction to Glyn Davis and Gary Needham's Warhol in Ten Takes provides a comprehensive overview of this aspect of his career and output. Bradford R. Collins' book Pop Art offers a detailed survey of the art movement.

Course Format

This course will be delivered in five thematic blocks of material, which allow distinct framings of Warhol’s life, career, and work. The five themes are celebrity, sex, money, death and time.

Each week you will be provided with a number of new learning resources, including short videos, audio interviews and reading extracts. Video interviews with experts will provide insights into working with Andy Warhol's estate and archive. All of these resources will provide the basis for discussion in the course forums. Additional useful materials will be linked to using the course Twitter account (@warholmooc).

The course assessment has four components: a practical assignment (which can be done using either analogue or digital materials and methods), a written assignment, a quiz, and contributions to the course forums. Other activities - for fun, not for assessment - will be included in the course content as it unfolds.


  • Will I get a certificate after completing this class?

    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

  • Do I earn University of Edinburgh credits upon completion of this class?

    No. The Statement of Accomplishment is not part of a formal qualification from the University. However, it may be useful to demonstrate prior learning and interest in your subject to a higher education institution or potential employer.

  • What resources will I need for this class?

    No resources needed.

  • What are the learning outcomes of this course and why should I take it?

    You will learn about one of the most iconic artists of all time and interrogate some of Warhol’s main thematic concerns and major creative innovations.