Introduction to Andy Warhol’s Beethoven Series, 1987
Ludwig Van Beethoven is one of the most famous and influential composers of all time. At a young age, he moved to Vienna and gained a reputation as a master pianist. His many compositions range from symphonies to piano concertos to string quarters. However, towards his late 20s, he began to lose his hearing which would result in deafness towards the end of his life. Surprisingly, many of his best loved compositions were produced at the end of his life when he was completely deaf.
Andy Warhol Screen Prints of the Beethoven Series, 1987
Andy Warhol created this series of 4 screen prints in 1987, shortly before his death. This series is unique as it departs from the celebrities and grocery items for which Warhol became known for. The source image was taken from an 1820 portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler. In the original oil on canvas, the composer is stares ahead with focused eyes as he writes another composition. This portrait is the most iconic image of Beethoven, deliberately chosen by Warhol for that reason. The Beethoven 1987 series captures the defining characteristics of the composer by placing a sheet of music over his portrait. The melody that is imprinted onto the page is Beethoven’s Sonata No. 14, better known as the Moonlight Sonata. Yet, the music notes are subtly colored, as not to overshadow Beethoven. In each screenprint, the intensity of the composer’s gaze is emphasized by the colors of his face. The background of the image is black, creating the impression of a man emerging from darkness. By rendering the composer with such dramatic colors, Warhol transforms the classical composer into a modern rock star.