Famous Paintings: Marilyn Diptych and Gold Marilyn

Andy Warhol paintings are among the most instantly recognized and easily identified works.

 Andy Warhol.  Marilyn Diptych, 1962.  Oil, acrylic, and silkscreen enamel on canvas.  Tate Gallery, London.

Andy Warhol.  Marilyn Diptych, 1962.  Oil, acrylic, and silkscreen enamel on canvas.  Tate Gallery, London.

Born Andrew Warhola (1928-87), he grew up during the Depression in a middle class Pittsburgh neighborhood (not far from the present Warhol Museum).  He was graduated from present-day Carnegie Mellon with a B. F. A., and became one of the most successful illustrators in the 1950s while also producing movies, sculpting, photographing, and painting.

As a painter, Warhol expropriated common media images – comic strips, sheets of stamps, ads for dance classes, photos of wanted criminals, pages from tabloids – and painted them in acrylic on canvas. Sometime in 1962, though, he began screenprinting photographic images directly on to canvas, usually in multiples, like his iconic Campbell soup cans.

Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans, 1962. Synthetic polymer paint on thirty-two canvases, each canvas 20 x 16". MoMA, New York.

Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962. Synthetic polymer paint on thirty-two canvases, each canvas 20 x 16″. MoMA, New York.

When Campbell’s Soup Cans was first exhibited, each of the 32 paintings (the number of soup varieties then available) rested on a wall-mounted shelf, simulating placement in a grocery store.  This mass production of art depicting ordinary objects blurred the historical distinction between fine art and pop culture – and Warhol became a Pop art sensation.

Perhaps the best known Andy Warhol paintings are the celebrity series of Marilyn Monroe. Begun in 1962, these works paid homage to the actress and national icon who had just committed suicide. Reworking a well-known publicity photo of Monroe from her 1953 movie, Niagara, Warhol transforms it into a stilted, mask-like impression of Monroe: this is the glamorous star, the actress, the former wife of baseball great Joe DiMaggio and of playwright Arthur Miller, but not an individual.

Warhol used this mask-like photo in Gold Marilyn, which reminds the viewer of all we never knew about Marilyn. Here, Marilyn is on a lavish, expansive gold background, world-renowned yet isolated.

 

Silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 6' 11 1/4" x 57" (211.4 x 144.7 cm). Gift of Philip Johnson.  MoMA, New York. 

Silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 6′ 11 1/4″ x 57″ (211.4 x 144.7 cm). Gift of Philip Johnson.  MoMA, New York.

 

 

With a middle class, immigrant upbringing, perhaps Warhol identified with the dissonance between Monroe’s personal and public life as he,too, navigated a world of glamour.

In Warhol’s case – dissonance or not – he continued to work prolifically as a moviemaker, painter, producer of TV shows, sculptor, writer (including Saturday Night Live), producer of music videos, and photographer before his death in 1987.

By |2018-03-23T23:31:44+00:00March 11th, 2011|American painters, Pop art paintings|2 Comments

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2 Comments

  1. Becky Guinn March 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    Kudos to you and thumbs down to the museum for failing to realize the educational value of your product; not to mention how your product broadens the legacy of the museum by making this information accessible globally.

  2. Susan Benford March 14, 2011 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    Becky,
    How eloquently you stated what I agree with wholeheartedly!

    In the event of biting the hand which fed me even so meagerly, I’ll tell you more at the NAEA!

    Best,
    Susan

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