Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1982

In 1962, Andy Warhol began reproducing press photos of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley using the silkscreen technique. The portrait silkscreens recur throughout Warhol’s oeuvre with “VIPs” from all walks of life – music, art, politics, business, sports and even the world of merchandise (Campbell’s Soup, BMW, Mercedes).

Warhol referred to his studio as a “factory”, since he carried out the serial production of his works there with the help of a large staff. In doing so, he was openly rejecting classical artistic qualities such as originality, authenticity and uniqueness. Taking images already well-known on account of their multiple reproduction in the media, he defamiliarised them with flashy colours and demonstrative flattening. When we view Warhol’s portraits, we find ourselves wondering who made these images so prominent – and why. Warhol saw the world’s most famous portrait of Goethe by Tischbein when he visited the Städel and – as the quintessence of German culture – it immediately gained entry into the pop artist’s cosmos. For one of Warhol’s tenets was likewise true for the poet-prince of Weimar Classicism: fame in and of itself can be a message in its own right.

© Andy Warhol


Silkscreen and acrylic on canvas
200 × 210 cm
Inv. No. LG 73
Commerzbank AG, Frankfurt am Main