‘I first met Andy Warhol when I was 16, and it felt as if I’d been given the keys to another world,’ says Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni. The journalist and fashion writer explores her relationship with the artist in her memoirs, and although she has plenty of interesting characters to write about – such as her mother Antonia Fraser, or Mick Jagger, with whom she had a brief affair as a teenager – it is Warhol who provides the narrative thread of her story, from the time she first heard of him as an impressionable eight year old, to her years in New York spent working in his studio after his death.
It’s easy to see why Warhol was such a central influence on Fraser-Cavassoni. The pop-art pioneer left an indelible mark on 20th-century culture. His elevation of the everyday – be it a Campbell’s soup can or a film of someone sleeping – challenged people’s perceptions of what constituted art.
Warhol’s meteoric rise could be partly attributed to his tremendous work ethic, honed during his early days in New York as a struggling artist. He described that period at the start of the 1950s in his autobiography, his days spent ‘making the rounds looking for jobs’, and evenings drawing at home, late into the night. As the decade progressed, he began to establish himself. A speculative application to Carmel Snow, then the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar in the States, resulted in him being commissioned to illustrate for the magazine. His wit and flair shone through in his line drawings: new-season shoes skipped across the pages, beauty boxes brimmed with exquisitely rendered products, and cookery features were enlivened by his sketches of wildly elaborate cakes.
By the 1960s, Warhol’s work for Bazaar ceased, as he began producing the paintings and lithographs that would make him famous, depicting iconic American objects and celebrities, founding his studio, known as the Factory, to meet the ever-growing demand. Just as his subject-matter blurred the line between consumerism and art, Warhol made no distinction between the two, declaring that ‘making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.’ His prolific nature was equally all-encompassing. ‘Warhol touched so many different people’s lives, including mine,’ says Fraser-Cavassoni. ‘He was – and still is – everywhere.’
After Andy: Adventures in Warhol Land’ by Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni (£23.99, Penguin) is out now. ■