Holy Cats (Warhol’s Mother)
Medium: Bound book with 22 pages; 20 plates, offset lithographs on various colored paper.
Sheet size: 9 1/8 x 5 3/4 inches, each
Printed cover. Back inside cover stamped and numbered by The Estate of Andy Warhol and The Warhol Foundation.
Around 1957, Warhol produced Holy Cats as a companion or sequel to 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy. The book serves as a eulogy for Hester, Warhol’s mother’s beloved cat. Unlike his other books from this period, the text in Holy Cats is not only hand-written by Julia Warhola, but she is also responsible for the content. The cover of the book cites the author as “Andy Warhol’s mother,” which is seemingly Warhol’s only connection to the publication. Warhola also illustrated the book with a series of fanciful cats and angels—two of her favorite things to draw—interacting harmoniously. Unlike 25 Cats, the color in Holy Cats comes from the paper on which the text and images were printed.
In this publication, one easily sees the influence of Warhol’s mother’s style of drawing on the artist. Warhol arrived in New York from Pittsburgh in 1949 and changed his name from ‘Warhola’ to ‘Warhol’ that same year. From 1949 to 1952, he lived with friends. When his mother moved to the city in 1952, Warhol was living alone at 216 East 75th Street and she decided to move in with him. In 1959, Warhol bought a townhouse at 1342 Lexington Avenue— a purchase that attests to his rapidly escalating success. They lived there together until Warhola moved back to Pittsburgh in 1970 due to health reasons.
While the cats are not necessarily drawn from life, Warhol’s pets were very important to him. He frequently stated that he and his mother lived with anywhere from 7 to 50 cats. Although the exact number is unclear, Warhol’s friends distinctly recalled the many cats occupying his home. His proud love of cats was one of many eccentricities that he hyperbolically leaned into as he developed his public persona, relishing in his existence as an outsider while hoping it would endear him to others. This love also connected him to his mother, with whom he shared both his home and, clearly, many passions.