Born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928, in the neighborhood of Oakland in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Andy Warhol’s parents were Slovakian immigrants. His father, Ondrej Warhola, was a construction worker, while his mother, Julia Warhola, was an embroiderer. They were devout Byzantine Catholics who attended mass regularly, and maintained much of their Slovakian culture and heritage while living in one of Pittsburgh’s Eastern European ethnic enclaves.
At the age of 8, Warhol contracted Chorea—also known as St. Vitus’s Dance—a rare and sometimes fatal disease of the nervous system that left him bedridden for several months. It was during these months, while Warhol was sick in bed, that his mother, herself a skillful artist, gave him his first drawing lessons. Drawing soon became Warhol’s favorite childhood pastime. He was also an avid fan of the movies, and when his mother bought him a camera at the age of 9 he took up photography as well, developing film in a makeshift darkroom he set up in their basement.
Warhol attended Holmes Elementary school and took the free art classes offered at the Carnegie Institute (now the Carnegie Museum of Art) in Pittsburgh. In 1942, at the age of 14, Warhol again suffered a tragedy when his father passed away from a jaundiced liver. Warhol was so upset that he could not attend his father’s funeral, and he hid under his bed throughout the wake. Warhol’s father had recognized his son’s artistic talents, and in his will he dictated that his life savings go toward Warhol’s college education. That same year, Warhol began at Schenley High School, and upon graduating, in 1945, he enrolled at the Carnegie Institute for Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) to study pictorial design.