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Celebrity

See how Pop artists seized on and critiqued celebrity culture.


Gold Marilyn Monroe

Andy Warhol
(American, 1928–1987)

1962. Silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 6' 11 1/4" x 57" (211.4 x 144.7 cm)

Soon after her tragic death in 1962, Warhol made a series of paintings paying tribute to Marilyn Monroe, the film star and sex symbol who had captured America’s imagination in films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire. Warhol based this portrait on a publicity still from the 1953 film Niagara. He painted the background gold before silkscreening the boldly colored face in the center, adding black to show her features. Even as Warhol canonizes Monroe, he reveals her public persona as a carefully structured illusion.

Original publicity still for the 1953 film Niagara

Original publicity still for the 1953 film Niagara

A form, sign, or emblem that represents something else, often something immaterial, such as an idea or emotion.

A printing technique in which areas of a silkscreen, comprised of woven mesh stretched on a frame, are selectively blocked off with a non-permeable material (typically a photo-emulsion, paper, or plastic film) to form a stencil, which is a negative of the image to be printed. Ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface with a squeegee, creating a positive image.

A representation of a particular individual.

The area of an artwork that appears farthest away from the viewer; also, the area against which a figure or scene is placed.

Assembly Line Art?
In August 1962, Andy Warhol began to produce paintings using the screenprinting process. He recalls, “The rubber-stamp method I’d been using to repeat images suddenly seemed too homemade; I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly-line effect. With silkscreening you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time. It all sounds so simple—quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it. My first experiments with screens were heads of Troy Donahue and Warren Beatty, and then when Marilyn Monroe happened to die that month (August 1962), I got the idea to make screens of her beautiful face.” (Andy Warhol, Popism, 1980)

Multiplying Marilyn
Warhol took Marilyn Monroe as his subject in different mediums, silkscreening the actress’s image multiple times in a grid in bright colors and in black and white. By repeating Monroe’s image (and that of other celebrities) over and over again, Warhol acknowledged his own fascination with a society in which personas could be manufactured, commodified, and consumed like products.

Multimedia

LISTEN UP!

AUDIO: Curator Anne Umland discusses Warhol’s fascination with Marilyn Monroe and death

LISTEN UP!

AUDIO: MoMA Teen podcasters compare Andy Warhol and Marilyn Monroe