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This 1980 Andy Warhol series portrays German performance and installation artist, Joseph Beuys, in his trademark felt hat. Beuys’ understanding of art as a catalyst for social and political change is undoubtedly present in his direct, frontal confrontation with the viewer.

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Meaning & Analysis

Donning his trademark felt hat, Joseph Beuys looks directly out at us from Warhol’s screen print portraits of the contemporary artist. It shows the artist staring out at the viewer while wearing his trademark felt hat. The print varies significantly from others in Warhol’s oeuvre for its fading colours that make Beuys’ face appear more like a stain on the canvas than an icon in Warhol’s hall of fame. Yet, the work shows Warhol once again testing the limit of his chosen medium, that of the screen print. He first worked with serigraphy – as screen printing is also known – in the early 60s after experimenting with lithography and monoprinting. Taking a publicity shot ofMarilyn Monroe he cropped her face, enlarged it and then overlaid it with bright colours to enhance her iconic features. That work is now known all over the world and Warhol’s continued use of this medium ensured that his name would become almost synonymous with it, his fame almost equal to that of the stars he portrayed.

So who was Joseph Beuys? Beuys was famous for his performances and installations. He is widely considered to be one of the most influential artists of the second half of the 20th century and obviously had a lasting impact on Warhol. In 1985 the two artists collaborated, together with Japanese artist Kaii Higashiyama, when they became involved in the ‘Global-Art-Fusion’ project which involved sending a fax of three drawings by the artists around the world in a message of peace during the Cold War. They met for the first time however in 1979 when Warhol took a polaroid of Beuys from which the series of portraits which later became prints is painted. Warhol was immediately a big fan of Beuys stating, “I like the politics of Beuys. He should come to the US and be politically active there. That would be great... He should be President.” They only met a handful of times after that but maintained a mutually respectful relationship while continuing with their vastly different practices.

10 Facts About Andy Warhol's Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys (F. & S. II.245) by Andy Warhol

Joseph Beuys (F. & S. II.245) © Andy Warhol 1980

1. The series is an homage to fellow artist Joseph Beuys.

In this sizeable portfolio, Warhol represented the German artist, teacher, and theorist Joseph Beuys (1921-86). The screen print series brings together two titans of Post-War art, and illuminates the mutual respect these two artists had for one another - though their approach to ”Art” was very different. Across the entire series, Warhol duplicated a single portrait of Beuys gazing directly out to the viewer. Many prints in the series, like Joseph Beuys (F. & S. II.245), use an inverted colour palette, emphasising the intensity of Beuys' persona.

Burkhard von Harder, German Artist Joseph Beuys, Cafe Florian, Venice 1983 c Burkhard von Harder, CC BY-SA 4.0

Burkhard von Harder, German Artist Joseph Beuys, Cafe Florian, Venice 1983 c Burkhard von Harder, CC BY-SA 4.0

2. Beuys was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

Beuys was something of the modern polymath. He was a sculptor, performance artist, teacher, radio operator, theorist - the list goes on. Today Beuys is regarded as one of the most influential artists of the Post-War period, his innovations in performance art and ”social sculpture” influencing generation after generation of artists. Beuys frequently described his work as ”actions”, each performance and sculpture designed to encourage thought and democracy. Though Warhol's approach to art was quite unlike Beuys’, this series is a testament to the his legacy and the seismic influence of his theoretical work throughout the second half of the 20th century.

Joseph Beuys (F. & S. II.242) by Andy Warhol - MyArtBroker

Joseph Beuys (F. & S. II.242) © Andy Warhol 1980

3. Warhol and Beuys collaborated.

In 1985, Warhol and Beuys collaborated alongside Japanese artist Kaii Higashiyama. Together, the trio engaged in a project titled ”Global-Art-Fusion”, whereby the artists faxed their drawings around the world in a call to peace during the Cold War. The project was an unusual departure for Warhol, but highlights the unifying nature of art during periods of socio-political uncertainty.

Joseph Beuys (F. & S. II.247) by Andy Warhol - MyArtBroker

Joseph Beuys (F. & S. II.247) © Andy Warhol 1980

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