Pop artist Andy Warhol was fascinated by celebrities and preoccupied with loss, mortality, and disaster. Warhol began producing his iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe shortly after the troubled actress committed suicide in August 1962. Around the same time, he began experimenting with silk-screening, a technique he used to reproduce existing photographs repeatedly, as if on an assembly line. Silk-screening tends to flatten the resulting image both literally and symbolically. Even the addition of acrylic paint, applied by the artist, does little to animate the Marilyn depicted here. Blue Marilyn belongs to the Marilyn Flavors series, eight of which, including this one, debuted at the Stable Gallery in New York in 1962. Like many of Warhol’s Monroe portraits, they are based on a black-and-white publicity still from the actor’s 1953 film Niagara. Alfred H. Barr, a Princeton alumnus and founding director of the Museum of Modern Art, purchased Blue Marilyn the year it was made and donated it to Princeton in 1978.
Signed and dated, verso, top right: Andy Warhol 1962
Coupling his interests in celebrity and tragedy, Warhol produced this portrait of Marilyn Monroe in 1962 shortly after the actress’s suicide. He based the image on a publicity picture for Monroe’s 1953 hit film Niagara, in which she created her signature look. By duplicating an already widely recognized photograph, Warhol subverted the tradition of portraiture and assumptions of artistic originality. Instead of presenting Monroe as a unique individual, Warhol depicted her as an infinitely reproducible image, thus simultaneously contributing to her fame and critiquing the cult of celebrity that consumed her. Alfred H. Barr, a Princeton alumnus and the founding director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, purchased this work at Warhol’s first solo exhibition in 1962.
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An Educated Eye: The Princeton University Art Museum Collection (Friday, February 22, 2008 - Sunday, June 15, 2008)