Printed in 1985, Beethoven(F. & S. II.391) is a screen print by Andy Warhol that captures his keen interest in celebrities and popular culture. The print features an image of the famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven rendered in an uncharacteristic amalgam of colours. Beethoven’s serious gaze is intensified as his face is rendered in a cool blue which stands out against his white shirt and hair. Warhol superimposes a sheet of music over the portrait, however the subtly coloured red and pink notes ensure that Beethoven’s portrait is not obscured.
Beethoven(F. & S. II.391) is part of a portfolio of four screen prints in Warhol’s Beethoven series, produced by the artist shortly before his death in 1987. Depicting a classical composer departs from the more frequent prints of movie stars, such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, that Warhol is often remembered for. Nevertheless, Warhol’s iconic Pop Art style transforms the classical composer into a stylish 1980s pop icon.
Warhol uses the 1820 portrait of the composer by Joseph Karl Stieler as his source of material for the print. This was one of the most well-known images of Beethoven, and Warhol’s choice of this image reflects his obsession with icons of popular culture.