François Makanga


Theme 3: The Myth of Beethoven

This winter, take a family dive into the musical world of Beethoven. Our guides Shahin, Laryssa, François and Adi have put together 3 thematic activity sheets about the Hotel Beethoven exhibition. Have a look at the third one and explore new perspectives on Beethoven in order to better understand the myth around this great musician and his influence on artistic creation.

Before you start the activities, listen to what our guide François has to say...

Now that we’re done with introductions, enjoy the following creative activities!

1. Draw your Beethoven

Start off by listening to three short pieces by Beethoven:

a. A waltz
b. Presto agitato from the Moonlight Sonata
c. Adagio from the Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor"

Now draw Beethoven as you imagine him, drawing inspiration from the music you just heard.   

What would his style, age and origin be? Think about the gaze, expression, appearance, or hairstyle that he would have. If Beethoven had been born nowadays, what would he look like?

Observe the works on display in the exhibition to see how other artists have interpreted Beethoven.

Terry Adkins, "Synapse" (from the series "Black Beethoven"), 2004
Terry Adkins, "Synapse" (from the series "Black Beethoven"), 2004

One portrait strikes us by its boldness and originality: Terry Adkins’ Synapse (2004); it is visible behind Adi in the video. The African American artist imagined Beethoven gradually transforming into a young black man. He prompts us to wonder: “What if Beethoven had been black, or of non-European origin?”

As for Andy Warhol, he brings a dose of extravagance to his portrait. Unusual, isn’t it? What do you notice about the colours he used?

© Sophie Van den Berghe
© Sophie Van den Berghe

People say that Beethoven could be very jolly and good-natured. So why is he so often portrayed looking so serious? Feeling the onset of deafness from the age of 26, at a time when he was already a well-known musician, Beethoven tried to hide his condition – and the physical suffering it caused – and became increasingly isolated. Perhaps his rather stern expression is a result of tension as he concentrates to hear? In any case, his appearance and demeanour earned him a reputation as a misanthrope, much to his dismay. His music and writings prove the contrary.


Source: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Source: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Beethoven, out of fashion? Never! Listen to these songs and have fun discovering how artists from the world of pop, J-pop, R'n'B, electro, rap, gospel and disco have reused (“sampled”) his music. Can you spot the original work? Click on the answer to find out!

Rina Sawayama, Snakeskin (2020) / Answer 

℃-ute, Dreamlike Climax (2020) / Answer 

Alicia Keys, Piano & I (2011) / Answer

NAS, I Can (2002) / Answer

Joyful Joyful extrait du film Sister Act (1992) / Answer

Walter Murphy, A Fifth of Beethoven (1976) / Answer


Did you know that Beethoven was a socially engaged artist? He lived at the end of the 18th century, a time when winds of freedom were blowing across Europe. The Enlightenment ideas and humanistic ideals conveyed by the French Revolution’s slogan “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” reached young Ludwig’s ears in Vienna. Throughout his life, Beethoven continuously expressed his ideas through his music.

How about you, what ideas do you uphold? What are the struggles that matter to you: the environment, anti-racism, children’s rights, animal protection...?  

Do you agree with Beethoven and other artists that art can help to fight for your ideas?

What art forms do you like to use to express your ideas? Drawing, writing, singing, music, video? Who would you like to address? Your friends, your parents, your teachers, politicians, everyone?

Designed by Adi Chesson, Laryssa Ganga, François Makanga, & Shahin Mohammad 


See also