Portraits of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol
Portraits of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol
One can barely separate Andy Warhol’s pop art style from the face of Marilyn Monroe. For decades, she has been an icon that has remained alive through the power of art and Warhol’s signature pop art style. What makes the Marilyn Portrait Series stand out from all the other subjects Warhol produces, goes beyond her success as an actress and model.
Printmaking, and in particular screenprint, was the basic medium for Andy Warhol’s celebrated work on canvas and paper. While a prize-winning commercial artist in the 1950s, he devised a printing process of blotting outline drawings in ink from one surface to another. In a whimsical book of fashionable shoe styles, done at the time he was head of advertising at a shoe company, his blotted drawings were reproduced and then hand-colored by a team of friends.
Although Warhol adopted a bland, detached persona, he was an extremely energetic artist and self-promoter who played a significant role in redirecting the course of art. Rather than deriving his work from subjective personal feelings or idealist visions for abstraction, Warhol embraced popular culture and commercial processes. He eventually set up his own print-publishing company called Factory Additions, issuing portfolios of his signature themes. For Marilyn, he created ten highly variable portraits, exploiting the possibilities in screenprinting for shifting colors and off-register effects. By celebrating the seemingly impervious veneer of glamour and fame, but acknowledging its darker inner complexity, these prints reveal Warhol’s subtle grasp of American culture.
Warhol did not participate in the collaborative printshop system established in America in the 1960s, but his work contributed decisively to what has been characterized as a “print boom” at that time. Through the course of his career, he made nearly eight hundred printed images on paper, about half published in traditional editions. He was also a surprisingly experimental printmaker, issuing hundreds of trial proofs and unique variants. The compositions that make up Camouflage, his last portfolio, constitute a playful commentary on abstraction. Through manipulation of scale and color from sheet to sheet, Warhol alters the visual impact of the military fabric used for concealment. In examples on canvas, he also superimposes his face, linking self-portraiture with disguise.
About the Artist:
More than twenty years after his death, Andy Warhol remains one of the most influential figures in contemporary art and culture. Warhol’s life and work inspire creative thinkers worldwide thanks to his enduring imagery, his artfully cultivated celebrity, and the ongoing research of dedicated scholars. His impact as an artist is far deeper and greater than his one prescient observation that “everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” His omnivorous curiosity resulted in an enormous body of work that spanned every available medium and most importantly contributed to the collapse of boundaries between high and low culture.
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