Warhol & Monroe

Marilyn Monroe and Pop Art is one of those iconic pairings like strawberries and cream or pancakes and syrup, one just isn’t right without the other. In the four months after the premature death of the 1950s actress, the pioneer of Pop Art,
Andy Warhol, produced no less than twenty three silk screen paintings of Marilyn all of which depicted the same image of the actress, a publicity photograph from the 1953 film ‘Niagara’.

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Through his art, Warhol posed questions as to how the reality of the current day can beportrayed to a contemporary audience. He represented major themes of the human life such as success, death, money, sex, power and failure; yet he was also adept at choosing a subject to portray that encapsulated all of these themes in one sole image. Marilyn Monroe is a classic example of this. Across Warhol’s numerous paintings of Marilyn, he constantly changed and adapted the image by varying the colours used or the amount of paint that was applied to screen to produce different effects.

‘Marilyn Diptych’ produced in 1962, is a painting of two halves. The left side boasts a bright and vibrant image that is repeated many times over; whilst the right side shows the same image in a black and white format that gradually loses its presence as it becomes fainter across the print.

The image of Marilyn embodied themes that were central to Pop Art; death, celebrity and pop culture. The fading effect of the black and white Marilyn images evoke the passing away of the actress whilst the juxtaposition of the bold, colourful images contrasted with the black and white are symbolic of life and death. Similarly, Warhol represents Marilyn’s celebrity status through the repetitive image of her thus demonstrating her constant presence in the media.

Warhol’s selection of Marilyn shows how accurate his image choice was. More than fifty years after her death, Marilyn Monroe is still regarded as an icon and relevant to modern day pop culture as a symbol of style, fame and celebrity.

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