Autistic Individuals in the Arts: Was Warhol Autistic?

Self Portrait, 1966. Through the years, Warhol produced several series of self-portraits, many of which displayed his signature style.

As one of the forefront leaders of the 60’s Pop art movement, Andy Warhol made a name for himself with artworks exemplifying mainstream pop culture, coupled with bright colors and bold line-work, but what many don’t know is that one of the most famous artists of the century may very well have been a part of the ASD community.

Starting out as a commercial artist for Glamour magazine, Warhol continuously moved up the ranks, while establishing his own style.1 Eventually, he came to the creation of what he called “Pop Art”, which focused on statement pieces about commercialism through the use of easily recognizable, mass-produced imagery. Through the use of pop art, Warhol was able to touch wider audiences, which led to his art becoming some of the most valuable  and recognizable works of all time.

Campbell’s Soup Cans, created in 1962, perfectly exemplifies Warhol’s use of repetition.


One commonality found in Warhol’s works is the use of repetition; numerous prints of the same image stamped- often uniformly- on the canvas can be seen in works such as “Colored Mona Lisa”, “Campbell’s Soup Cans”, and the Marilyn Monroe Series. The inclusion of repetition in most of his works, along with his deep-set fascination with art, perfectionism, and his so-called “social ineptitude” has led some medical professionals and ASD people alike to believe that Warhol may have placed on the autism spectrum.

According to Dr. Judith Gould, Andy Warhol expressed traits akin to those found in people with high-functioning autism, including adherence to routine and uniformity.2 One anecdote from composer, Ian Stewart, demonstrates the methodological manner with which Warhol bought his underwear. Each time, Warhol would perform a thorough examination on the package of underwear before buying 28 pairs of the same pair.3 Stewart observed Warhol and his mannerisms, and cited him as one of the reasons that he sought his own diagnosis for autism years later.

Prints from Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe Series, 1967. Warhol made numerous prints of Monroe’s face, each one with slight variations in color and detail.

Other evidence to suggest that Warhol had ASD can be found in interviews, wherein Warhol seemed unwilling or reluctant to respond to questions and had difficult upholding conversation. Whether or not this is the product of Warhol’s disillusion with fame or his rumored drug use, doctors who have studied autism, such as Dr. Judith Gould, argue that such difficulty with social engagement is one of the most identifiable signs of autism.4

The issue with hypothesizing the condition of Andy Warhol, and whether or not he was on the autism spectrum, is the fact that it is just that: a hypothesis. By comparing Warhol’s traits to common symptoms of ASD, medical professionals believe that he was most definitely autistic, but an official diagnosis can never be given. However, whether or not Warhol placed on the autism spectrum, he made a profound impact on the art world… and Campbell’s Soup.




  1. The hypothesis that Andy Warhol may have had some form of ASD is such an interesting one – and not something I would have thought of. If individuals such as Andy Warhol were diagnosed with ASD, would this have affected their careers, either as an inhibitory or helpful factor? ASD is often stigmatized, and may have been even more so during the 1960s. Though it would be extremely unfair, is it possible that this could have had a negative affect on the public’s response to an artist like Warhol? On the other hand, a clear diagnosis could have been helpful to Warhol, both for peace of mind and for situations such as interviews that could impact the public’s opinion of him. There is no way to know the answer to these questions, just as there is no way to know whether or not Warhol was on the spectrum. Regardless, the idea that autism can negatively affect one’s career is relevant today, and it is an issue that calls for reform.

  2. Jasmine Garnes says:

    I never would have realized that the use of repetition in art would have speculated an ASD diagnosis. Before reading this blog, I would have just thought of it as a typical style of art instead of the possible underlying autism diagnosis. If Warhol was still alive today, the advancements that have been made in the autism field may have finally yielded a diagnosis.

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