Andy Warhol Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn) (F & S II.21)Facts | History | Meaning
Catalogue Title Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn) (F & S II.21) Year 1967 Size 6″ x 6″ 15,2 x 15,2 cm Medium Screenprint on Paper Edition Edition of 100 signed in pencil and numbered with a rubber stamp on verso; some signed and unnumbered; some dated. There are numerous AP signed and marked a.p. in pencil on verso. Published to announce the publication of the Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn) Portfolio.
Andy Warhol Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn) (F & S II.21)Meaning & History
"The print ignites an artistic relationship between artist and subject that is perhaps the most memorable of the artist’s distinguished career."
Marilyn Monroe is a singular screenprint created by the artist in 1967. Rare in its edition of 100, and in virtue of it being the first portrait of Warhol’s most beloved muse, the print ignites an artistic relationship between artist and subject that is perhaps the most memorable of the artist’s distinguished career.
The exceptional portrait renders one of the world’s most photographed faces in acid green, yellow and pink: ‘day glo’ colours typical of the Pop artist’s palette. The star had passed away tragically five years earlier – though her image was, and still is, embedded in the American psyche. To Warhol, Marilyn represented the ultimate cult of celebrity. His decision to paint her at this time speaks to the seemingly senseless and unabating media onslaught even in death, which fascinated Warhol. As put by art historian Robert Rosenblum, Marilyn’s face ‘seems perpetually illuminated by the afterimage of a flash bulb’.
The image used in this work is indeed taken from a publicity still from Marilyn’s 1953 film Niagara. The artist’s favoured way of appropriating images, screenprinting, allows him to exert a kind of emotional distance: layers of psychedelic colour create a surreal, lurid effect. The distinctive features for which Marilyn was known – her blonde hair, red lipstick and doe eyes, have been inverted and altered into heavy lines yet are no less familiar. In doing this, Warhol’s portrait crosses over from traditional portraiture into a work of true abstraction. As with advocates of Abstract Expressionists, colour and shapes were of primary concern, rather than formal representation: they convey feelings and ideas. In Marilyn, Warhol’s subject is arguably both Marilyn, the actress and public figure, as well as a far more intangible concept she represents – femininity, sexuality and beauty. A salient theme throughout the artist’s work is that of consumerism and capitalism, from his Dollar Sign works to Soup Cans. Subjectively, one can see Marilyn’s media presence in her lifetime, and in the contemporary moment, as a kind of ‘brand’ or product, especially evidenced by her styling such as her hair and makeup, a kind of ‘trademark’.
Warhol implores us to think of cultural icons as a mirror of society itself. The has immortalised Marilyn, and the multiplicity she represents in a portrait that can surpasses the popularity of its original photograph. The commercial value of Warhol’s portraits of Marilyn are a testament to their canonical status in Modern and Contemporary art: his Shot Sage Blue Marilyn silk screen of 1964 sold for $195,040,00 at Christie’s, New York in 2022, making it one of the most expensive pieces of art sold in history. This present print is remarkable for its early placement in his Marilyn series – used to announce the portfolio, as the as well as it being from a small number of a hundred editions.
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