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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.