Andy Warhol - Evening & Day Editions London Thursday, June 6, 2024 | Phillips
  • “Even in the moments of highest happiness and deepest misery we need the Artist.”
    —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    In his seminal work, Zur Farbenlehre, or Theory of Colours (1810), the luminary polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe embarked on a groundbreaking exploration of colour. Unlike Isaac Newton, Goethe's enquiry of colours extended beyond the physics of light, instead delving into the nuanced qualities of how colours are subjectively perceived. He explored various colours' intrinsic associations, such as red with danger, blue with calm, and yellow with joy. This departure from strict scientific analysis laid the foundation for a holistic understanding of colour, marking a paradigm shift that was embraced by philosophers and artists alike. Fast forward to the twentieth century, and corporations actively put this social understanding of colour to use, artfully selecting specific hues in advertising and mass media to entice the general public to their product. Andy Warhol, with his deeply adept sense of colour, combined these facets of colour theory in his Pop Art portraiture, drawing on the commercial imagery of his day. In Goethe, Warhol pays homage to the historic figure and his seminal analysis of colour, presenting him in bright orange, blue and yellow, with a highlight of buggle-gum pink, transforming him into a twentieth-century Pop Art icon.


    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, colour wheel with associated symbolic qualities, 1809.

    Warhol's portrait of Goethe stands as a vibrant testament to the Pop Art maestro's enduring fascination with icons and fame. During the 1980s, Warhol gradually shifted his focus away from depicting the celebrities of his contemporary society, redirecting his attention to historical figures. Warhol's portrayal of Geothe utilises Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein’s Neoclassical painting, Goethe in the Roman Campagna (1787), housed in the Städel Museum in Goethe's hometown of Frankfurt. Departing from Tischbein's composition, which presents Goethe reclining in an Italian landscape, Warhol opts for a closely-cropped image. With graphic outlines and poster-like colour fields, he presents Goethe's face haloed by a large hat against a flat background. Echoing twentieth-century advertising motifs, Warhol masterfully transforms his historic subject into a contemporary icon, perpetuating the allure of celebrity that defines his artistic legacy.


    Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, Goethe in the Roman Campagna, 1787. Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main. Image: Courtesy Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

    Warhol’s depiction of Goethe, a momentous historical figure whose theories have transcended history, not only underscores the artist’s interest in the immediate allure of celebrity, but also reveals his contemplation of legacy. As he navigated the later stages of his career, Warhol grappled with the question of his own presence in the annals of art history. Poignantly, the role of the artist was something Goethe explored in his writing, expounding that it is a noble and necessary pursuit in man’s exploration of the world. Therefore, in Goethe Warhol found a poignant symbol for his exploration of enduring fame and his thoughts, or perhaps aspirations, for his own historical legacy.

    • Provenance

      Edition Schellmann, Munich
      Private German Collection

    • Literature

      see Frayda Feldman and Jörg Schellmann 270-273
      Jörg Schellmann, ed., Forty Are Better Than One, Munich/New York, 2009, pp. 342-343

    • Artist Biography

      Andy Warhol

      American • 1928 - 1987

      Andy Warhol was the leading exponent of the Pop Art movement in the U.S. in the 1960s. Following an early career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol achieved fame with his revolutionary series of silkscreened prints and paintings of familiar objects, such as Campbell's soup tins, and celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe. Obsessed with popular culture, celebrity and advertising, Warhol created his slick, seemingly mass-produced images of everyday subject matter from his famed Factory studio in New York City. His use of mechanical methods of reproduction, notably the commercial technique of silk screening, wholly revolutionized art-making.

      Working as an artist, but also director and producer, Warhol produced a number of avant-garde films in addition to managing the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground and founding Interview magazine. A central figure in the New York art scene until his untimely death in 1987, Warhol was notably also a mentor to such artists as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.


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Goethe (see F. & S. 270-273)

Unique screenprint in colours, on Lenox Museum Board, the full sheet.
S. 96.7 x 96.8 cm (38 1/8 x 38 1/8 in.)
Signed and numbered 'TP 14/15' in pencil (a unique colour variant trial proof, the edition was 100), co-published by Edition Schellmann & Klüser, Munich and New York, and Denise René/Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf, unframed.

Full Cataloguing

£40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for £63,500

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 6 - 7 June 2024