Blog Paul Warhola: First to Arrive, Last to Leave | June 26, 1922 – January 30, 2014
The Warhol mourns the passing of Andy Warhol’s last surviving brother, Paul Warhola. By birth, he was the first of the three Warhola brothers, each birth separated by three years: John born in 1925, Andy in 1928. Paul was also their parents’ first child to live beyond infancy, born in Pittsburgh within a year of their mother’s arrival from the village of Mikova in what is now the Slovak Republic.
As the eldest, Paul often had responsibility for Andy because their father was frequently out of town with his job as a laborer, slowly moving large buildings from their foundations for relocation, rather than demolition. This work took him to Connecticut, Indiana, and West Virginia for many weeks at a time.
Paul’s stories of their childhood became well-known to the museum’s staff and to biographers. One of these is perhaps apocryphal, but bears telling. During the disastrous St. Patrick’s Day flood in 1936, the Warhola boys heard the rumor that the Clark Candy Company’s factory on the North Side of Pittsburgh was underwater, and crates of their sweet stuff were floating away. As the flood receded, the boys walked from their home in South Oakland to downtown. As they crossed the 7th Street Bridge, Andy began to complain that his feet hurt. Paul promised they would rest when they reached the other side, and they sat on the steps of the Frick & Lindsay Company at 117 Sandusky Street, where Andy removed his shoes and rubbed his sore feet. In 1994, that building became The Andy Warhol Museum, and the bridge is now the Andy Warhol Bridge.
In 1943 Paul married his wife Anne, and then served in the Navy in World War II; after 71 years of marriage their family counted seven children (one of whom, James, followed in his famous uncle’s footsteps as an illustrator of children’s books), twelve grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
On his return from the war, Paul started a fresh produce business, driving a truck through wealthier neighborhoods after filling it each morning from the wholesalers in the Strip District. Andy carried bags of vegetables for the customers, and gained his first flash of the entrepreneurial spirit. The museum’s collection has many of the drawings Andy made that document this experience, the very works that prevented him from expulsion from Carnegie Tech. Paul also saved a large trove of his brother’s paintings made during his college days, which have been periodically loaned to the museum. Many of them will be seen once again during the museum’s 20th anniversary collection rehang this coming May.
The family’s continuing scrap metal and recycling business grew out of Paul’s junkyard business. In the 1950s, taking advantage of the demolition of so many of the magnificent old homes of industrialists in Pittsburgh, Paul saved decorative items from these houses, many of which he gave to Andy, who was living in New York by then. The brothers shared an appreciation of beautiful craftsmanship.
With Andy’s untimely passing in 1987, Paul began to take up painting, and showed silkscreened images of a photo of himself and Andy in their youth, as well as images of Heinz Baked Beans cans, riffing on Andy’s subjects and techniques. He also invented a novel means of applying paint, using chicken’s feet rather than a brush; their stamped impressions evoke his semi-retirement to a farm in Fayette County. His son James also used him as a model for characters in several of his children’s books.
Since The Warhol opened, Paul and his extended family have been supporters of the museum’s programs, especially the Carpatho-Rusyn days celebrating the family’s ethnic heritage. When the US Postal Service issued a stamp honoring their famous brother in 2002, Paul and his brother John were featured guests at the Postal Service’s First Day of Issue event, held at the museum.
Paul’s most recent visit to the museum was in November, when he recounted his memories for our forthcoming new introductory film. Before the interview, Paul, his wife Anne, and several members of the extended family watched a film made by Andy in 1966, “Mrs. Warhol,” featuring their mother Julia.