Marilyn Monroe FS II.29
Screenprint on Wove paper
36 x 36 in.
Edition of 250
Pencil signed and stamp-numbered on verso
About the work:
Have you ever wondered why after more than 55 years of the death of Marilyn Monroe, she still remains the top iconic sex symbol in the world?
Monroe’s life and death are are so widely known, and read like a Shakespearean tragedy. Wanting so badly to become famous, Norma Jean Mortenson spent most of her childhood in foster homes and orphanages before she became a pin up model, and eventually the one of the biggest Hollywood movie stars to date. But this fame came at a cost. Billed by Hollywood as a “Blonde Bombshell”, by 1953 Monroe emerged as a major sex symbol and one of Hollywood’s most bankable performers.
The 1953 film noir Niagara put Marilyn on the map as a sex symbol, and was the start of the Marilyn Monroe that we know today. By now, Monroe and her make-up artist had developed the make-up look that became associated with her: dark arched brows, pale skin, “glistening” red lips and a beauty mark.
Niagara was one of the most overtly sexual films of Monroe’s career, and it included scenes in which her body was covered only by a sheet or a towel, considered shocking by contemporary audiences. Its most famous scene is a 30-second long shot behind Monroe where she is seen walking with her hips swaying, which was heavily used in the film’s marketing.
When Niagara was released in 1953, women’s clubs protested that the film was immoral, but the movie proved popular with audiences and grossed $6 million at the box office. This film, Niagara made Monroe a sex symbol and established her “look”.
This weeks Work of the Week! WOW! is Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe FS II.29
Produced in 1967, five years after Monroe’s death, it is not by coincidence that the photo of Marilyn that Warhol selected for what is to be one of his most famous and iconic works of art was a publicity shot from the 1953 film Niagara.
Publicity photo from 1953 film Niagara
Many people do not fully understand the importance of Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe. Early works by Warhol were social and political commentaries on what was going in America at the time.
Warhol’s Marilyn to one who understands the work is genius, to those who do not, they ask what is the big deal? Warhol just reproduce a photo of Marilyn, and it is considered art?
Well for starters consider this: Andy Warhol immortalized Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Monroe DID NOT immortalize Marilyn Monroe.
The most famous image of Marilyn Monroe is Warhol’s image. It has been reproduced millions of times, on countless products such as tote bags, coffee mugs, t-shirts, notebooks etc. This image is how younger generations identify Marilyn Monroe by. Artist’s of today, have appropriated Warhol’s Marilyn, after more than 55 years of her death.
So why is this work so important, and a work of genius? How come it has withstood the test of time?
In order to learn what this work is, we must first realize what this work is not. Warhol’s Marilyn is NOT just a portrait of a beautiful sexy celebrity.
Warhol’s Marilyn is a documentary, and a commentary on the life of one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, the culture of Hollywood, the power of Hollywood and film, and the culture of America at this time
“Being a sex symbol is a heavy load to carry, especially when one is tired, hurt and bewildered.”
Against Monroe’s wishes and demands over the years to be taken as a more serious actress, and wanting to be seen as more than just a “Dumb Blonde”, Hollywood continued to pump the sex starlet money machine, and refused to listen to Marilyn.
Although there were many other actresses before and during Marilyn’s era that have been typecast as a sex symbol, no one filled the roll better than Marilyn Monroe. The timing for Marilyn was perfect. After WWII America was coming into her own, and the innocence of the American society was slowly being ripped away. Hollywood realized that sex sells. Young men want Marilyn, and young women want to be like Marilyn.
However, this shedding of innocence of American society was the minority. Of course it was mostly a feeling of the younger generation, but conservatism still had a strong hold on American society and images of sex, and merely the suggestion of anything sex was still viewed as wrong or devilish.
Marilyn was pushing the envelope at a time when the majority of the country was not used to this type of openness towards sexuality. Yes, she was ground breaking, but this came at a grave cost.
This had taken a toll on Marilyn, and was the underlying factor of Marilyn’s tragic death. Hollywood’s greed and unwillingness to listen to one of its biggest stars led to Marilyn’s depression, ultimately her overdose of barbiturates, ruled as a “probable suicide”.
Andy Warhol had the foresight to see the whole story, and as any true artist does, created a work of art that not only details her life, but also comments on the state of the times in the country, as well as specific factors influencing American society during this era, such as commercialism, consumerism, greed, celebrity, sexuality and the innocence, growth and coming out of the American society. By definition, it is the epitome of Pop Art, and possibly the most famous work to come out of the Pop art
Marilyn Monroe went from the top of her game, to the depths of hell, and overdosed at age 36. Warhol’s image of Marilyn represents her tragic story, and puts it in perspective in a way, that biographies and film documentaries do not, and frankly, can not. Warhol made Marilyn a work of art, for viewers to stop and think about her tragic life, the culture of Hollywood, the insincerities of greed towards a human life, and the attitude of America towards sexuality during this time, in the most abstract of ways. All this by just appropriating an image of Marilyn. It’s the concept of this work, and not the work itself that speaks volumes. And this is why the work is genius!