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Portraying German polymath and literary great, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Andy Warhol created these four colour-variant screen prints in 1982. Warhol’s Goethe evidences the artist’s love of appropriating already iconic imagery: here, a painting of Goethe by Johan Tischbein that is regarded as the most famous German portrait.

Andy Warhol Goethe for sale

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Meaning & Analysis

Here Warhol depicts prominent German philosopher, theorist and scientist Goethe, in a collection of four different coloured screen prints. The screen prints in colour all come in a limited edition size of 100.

Each print in the collection depicts Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, one of the greatest German literary figures of the modern times. Goethe was a polymath who became a prominent philosopher, scientist and colour theorist and had a profound and long-lasting impact on modern thought. The prints in the collections are all based on a painting of Goethe by Johan Tischbein which is regarded as the most famous portrait in Germany.

Warhol renders Goethe in his signature Pop Art style, characterised by an emphasis on bold and vibrant colours and the use of hand drawn lines which are added after the printing process to imbue the prints with detail. The use of graphic lines which contour the image sets up an interesting dichotomy between classical portraiture and the resulting, highly contemporary image. By transforming an iconic painting made by a renowned classical painter through the use of a Pop Art aesthetic, Warhol calls into question the way we judge an artwork based on originality and authorship and prompts the viewer of the piece to think about what exactly constitutes the value of art.

10 Facts About Andy Warhol's Goethe

Goethe (F. & S. II.271) by Andy Warhol

Goethe (F. & S. II.271) © Andy Warhol 1982

1. The series depicts Wolfgang von Goethe.

In this unusual hark back to the past, Warhol depicted Wolfgang von Goethe across four screen prints. Hailing from Germany, Goethe was an 18th century polymath and was respected across the fields of literature, poetry, theatre, science, and aesthetic criticism. The series reveals Warhol's respect for the past, even though his Pop Art was grounded in current culture, and perhaps his aspirations to become a modern day Goethe himself.

Goethe In The Roman Campagna by Johann Tischbein

Image © Creative Commons / Goethe In The Roman Campagna © Johann Tischbein 1787

2. The series is based on a famous painting by Johann Tischbein.

Like most of Warhol's celebrity portraits, the image of Goethe in this series was appropriated from an existing portrait of the polymath by Johann Tischbein. In the original portrait, we see Goethe reclining before a scene of ruins, romantically alluding to his role in the long history of the arts. In Warhol's Pop reinvention of Tischbein's portrait, the image is cropped to focus on the head and shoulders of Goethe alone, almost like a sculpted bust.

Goethe (F. & S. II.273) by Andy Warhol

Goethe (F. & S. II.273) © Andy Warhol 1982

3. Goethe is regarded as the most important German literary figure of modern times.

Today, Goethe is regarded as one of the most influential writers in the German language, and has been likened to Dante and Shakespeare. By the young age of 25, Goethe was already an acclaimed author and published international bestsellers in his own lifetime, including Faust and Sturm und Drang. Beyond his literary talents, Goethe also flexed his interests in biology with The Metamorphosis of Plant, and colour perception in his Theory of Colours.

Details Of Renaissance Paintings (Sandro Botticelli, Birth Of Venus, 1482) (F. & S. II.316) by Andy Warhol

Details Of Renaissance Paintings (Sandro Botticelli, Birth Of Venus, 1482) (F. & S. II.316) © Andy Warhol 1984

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