Executed in warm flesh tones, Julia Warhola's kind and homely face smiles out gently from the surface of the canvas surrounded by a glorious halo of blue ultramarine. This work conveys, with great love and affection, Andy Warhol's mother -- the matriarch of the family -- who did so much to support his career and become the rock upon which the family was built. Coming directly from the Estate of John Warhol, Andy's older brother, this vivid portrait is touching evidence of the high esteem in which Warhol held his beloved mother. Despite surrounding himself with a panoply of glamorous Hollywood actress, models and assorted celebrities, Julia was the most important person in his life and the only figure who was constantly by his side throughout his career, until her death in 1972.
Julia Warhola belongs to a series of nine portraits Andy made of his mother in 1974, just two years after her death. According to his friend, Bob Colacello, these works were the last that Warhol produced at his studio at 33 Union Square in New York before he moved the Factory to a nearby building on Broadway. The original source photograph is not known, but it is thought to be closely related to a picture taken around 1958 by Duane Michals of Warhol and his mother. Unlike the other images from the series, the clarity of this particular canvas has been achieved by Warhol's restrained use of a technique by which he directly disturbed the painted surface of the canvas with his fingers to blur the edges of the image. The largely uninterrupted nature of this particular screen, allows the strong character of Warhol's mother to emanate from the surface of the painting, a quality not lost on Warhol and his brother John, to whom Warhol personally gave the painting in 1978.
Julia Warhola was herself a talented amateur artist and spotted Andy's talents early on. Encouraging him to take his passion seriously, the bond between the two grew strong and Warhol had fond memories of his childhood, "My mother would read to me in her thick Czechoslovakian accent as best she could and I would always say, 'Thanks Mom,' after she finished with Dick Tracey, even if I hadn't understood a word. She'd give me a Hershey bar every time I finished a page in my colouring book" (A. Warol, quoted by V. Bockris, The Life and Death of Andy Warhol, London, 1982, p. 39). This close relationship continued throughout her life and after she was widowed, Julia moved to New York to look after Andy. Throughout the ups and downs, Julia was the only constant thing in Andy's life, as Gerard Malanga recalled "She wasn't an old lady slogging along, she was very crisp. Don't forget she supported Andy through times of doubt. Of all the people who spent any time with him over a period of years, Julia was the only one who was there every day regardless of what happened" (G. Malanga, Ibid, p. 350).
Andy Warhol painted pictures of the rich and famous throughout his career, but it is this portrait of his mother that is among the most touching and tender. Given the close bond the pair developed over the years, it is unsurprising that this intensely personal work has remained in the Warhol family ever since it was painted. Julia Warhola displays all the hallmarks of Warhol's unique brand of portraiture and gives us a glowing and touching insight into the warm and loving personality of the woman who provided the foundation for much of her son's phenomenal success. SJ