In 1982, Andy Warhol created a series of screen prints of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, an iconic German writer and philosopher. Warhol appropriated a famous painting of Goethe by Johan Tischbein to create his pop art version. The four prints each feature a bold, vibrant color scheme with the same image of Goethe adorned in different colors.
Warhol’s fascination with appropriation is evident in this work as he transforms an already iconic portrait into something new and modern. The choice to depict such an important literary figure as a pop icon is also telling of Warhol’s approach to art-making.
It’s worth noting that Goethe himself was interested in color theory and its psychological effects. This adds another layer of significance to the prints’ vivid colors and may have influenced Warhol’s decision to use such bold hues.
Since their creation nearly four decades ago, the “Goethe” screen prints have been exhibited in prestigious institutions worldwide, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art and London’s Tate Modern. Today, they remain a beautiful example of Warhol’s artistic style while also providing insight into his choice of subject matter.