Andy Warhol's Polaroids: Love

Much scholarship has been written about Andy Warhol’s artwork, however it has not touched upon Warhol's yearning for love and companionship. Warhol had many boyfriends; however, the prominent ones were Jed Johnson, who Warhol was with for twelve years, and Jon Gould (see image of Jon Gould below) who he was with for four years. Warhol viewed love as an exchange between two people, sharing deep emotions and nurturing another person. When Warhol was young, he watched a lot of movies about heterosexual love and tried to imagine what love would look like for him, having had no model for a queer domestic partnership on TV or in any form of popular culture during this period. In Warhol’s Autobiography, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, From A to B and Back Again, he sees himself within the heterosexual cinematic fantasy when he describes his “ideal wife”, a person that would have “a lot of bacon [and] bring it all home” as a reference to a partner as a breadwinner. He also questions if it is possible to have a lifelong love affair, have someone 'make you breakfast in the morning' and have someone that he would always like to be around. (pages 45-46) 


Andy Warhol, Bedroom, n.d., black and white photograph, 8" x 10," P.08.6.150. Gift of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, 2008. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Andy Warhol loved antiques and was an avid collector. Warhol and Jed Johnson showcased their purchases at their house on 1342 Lexington Ave in New York. Jed Johnson was the first partner that Warhol lived with. Johnson was also an antiques collector as well as an interior designer. The most famous antiques dealers in New York at the time were located in the vicinity of Warhol's studio at 860 Broadway on the north end of Union Square. Dealers would sometimes even walk into Warhol's studio while he was working to try and sell him something.  

It is not clear if this image, Bedroom, is an image of Andy’s house or one of the many hotel rooms that he liked to photograph when he was traveling for work.   

The quick snapshot of the bed area looks almost like a ghost is passing by. The meaning of the empty bed possibly represents  mourning, loss, and longing for someone to love. Throughout his life, Andy longed for love and for a partner to accept him for who he truly was.  

Warhol was also terrified of illness, mortality, and aging. The motif of the empty bed shows fear of absence, especially during the time that the AIDS crisis was on the rise. The years 1985-1986 were especially difficult, as many of his friends and colleagues became sick. His partner Jon Gould died in 1986 at the age of 33 from AIDS.


Andy Warhol, Gould, Jon, 1982, black and white photograph, 8" x 10," P.08.6.125. Gift of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, 2008. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Jon Gould was Andy Warhol’s longtime romantic partner. Gould was a Vice President at Paramount Pictures and first appears in Warhol’s diaries when he writes in 1980: “I sent flowers to Jon Gould, the gay vice president at Paramount. I decided that I should fall in love. And that is what I am going to do with Jon Gould”. The two vacationed together frequently in Montauk, NY where Warhol owned a home.

Warhol did not write much about Gould in his diaries because Gould wanted to keep their relationship private, out of fear that he would be outed at work. For a while, in Warhol’s diaries, he referred to Gould simply as “Paramount”. Gould is one of the most photographed people in Warhol’s photographic collection. Gould's importance in Andy’s life speaks loudly through photographs and captures love that Andy’s words could not due to fear of judgment, hate, and prejudice.


Andy Warhol, Sand, n.d., black and white photograph, 8" x 10," P.08.6.146. Gift of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, 2008. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The themes of absence and longing appear in this photograph, especially in light of the looming AIDS crisis, through the traced footsteps of those who have stepped in the sand. We also see the artist’s presence in the photograph as he could have stepped in the sand with his own feet. This photograph was most likely taken on one of Warhol’s trips to Montauk where he spent a lot of time on the beach.  

Warhol admired the appearance of sand as he wrote in his autobiography The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: “I can never get over when you’re on the beach how beautiful the sand looks and the water washes it away and straightens it up and the trees and the grass all look great. I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own.”


Andy Warhol's Polaroids