Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, as depicted in Andy Warhol’s Goethe complete portfolio, was a German intellectual of the 19th century. He produced works of poetry and prose and contributed greatly to the literary and scientific communities. He also wrote Theory of Colours, which includes some of the earliest published ideas about color perception and theory. Goethe is known for his wide variation of literary genres, memoirs, epic and lyric poetry, novels and scientific treatises on botany. He was a highly esteemed celebrity in the literary world by the age of twenty-five.
Goethe was one of the founding fathers of the German “sturm and drang” movement, which literally translates to “storm and drive,” but is commonly referred to as “storm and stress.” His epic-style work, Faust, explores the themes of individual subjectivity and expression that were common of the Enlightenment movement and the sturm and drang aesthetic. The Renaissance thinker, through his prolific oeuvre, has influenced many contemporary philosophers, authors and artists––including Warhol himself.
In his Goethe series, Andy Warhol applies his modern techniques to this classic subject, based off of the painting of Goethe by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein. Throughout the series, Warhol showcases images of Goethe that are superimposed with vibrant colors. This contrast between classic images and new-age colors is a staple of Warhol’s work. Warhol’s obsession with celebrity is also a trademark evident in the Goethe series, as he explores the boundaries between reverence and veneration. The Goethe complete portfolio includes FS II.270-273