Marilyn Monroe 24 is a screen print by Andy Warhol included in his Marilyn portfolio from 1967. This version is often referred to as the black and white Marilyn, or sometimes the black Marilyn. As some of Warhol’s most successful works, the Marilyn series is indicative of his genre-defining Pop Art style. It showcases Marilyn Monroe as the quintessential celebrity, cloaked in Warhol’s signature flat and vibrant regions of color. Marilyn Monroe 24 stands out in the portfolio as a more brooding rendition of the superstar’s portrait, bathing her face in black and grey hues. With works like the Marilyn series, Warhol was able to scale the heights of the new art movement, earning himself the title of the pioneer of pop-art, and cementing his legacy in the history of modern art.
The photograph Andy chose for all of his Marilyn reproductions was taken by Gene Korman in 1953 as a publicity shot for Marilyn’s film Niagara. The decision to reuse the same photograph for all of his repetitive Marilyn creations sparked controversy among the art world. People began to question an artist’s ability to retain their integrity while also appropriating a repeated symbol. Thus, the series attracted some notoriety. Nevertheless, the Marilyn series has stood the test of time as one of Warhol’s greatest accomplishments.
Originally, Warhol painted Marilyn’s portrait in the weeks following her death in 1962. After her tragic suicide, he became inspired to paint the actress as a memorial. He created Marilyn Diptych, a diptych which presents the actress in fifty different images, in a variety of fading colors and black and white. Moreover, he became fascinated with Monroe as a hyper-famous figure of pop-culture. Monroe’s tragic life represented a classic intersection of American fame, beauty, and death. She became the perfect muse for Warhol, who seemed to obsess over celebrity culture and the phenomenon of becoming famous.
Being especially sensitive to the attention of the American public, Andy found inspiration in the way Monroe’s reputation evolved after her death. Besides the concept of fame, Warhol was greatly fascinated by everyday objects, consumer culture, and the industrial production of the postwar economy. Therefore, when Warhol paints famous people, like Liz Taylor, Mick Jagger, or Mao Zedong, the inspiration behind these projects isn’t far from his inclination to create images of Campbell’s Soup, or Kellog’s Corn Flakes. Ultimately, the idea of hyper-visibility fascinated him. Thus, Warhol sought to recreate the objects and faces that truly reflected the human condition in the 20th century.
Thus, in the Marilyn series, Warhol presents an idea, not an individual person. Marilyn became a massive sensation, and grew to become an icon of American success and beauty. Her acting career blossomed into a huge success. Later, she became a sex-symbol in the 1950s, when sex was a strict taboo. Marilyn thus represents the very ideas of fame, individual progress, and cultural relevance. As a highly successful product of the entertainment industry, Marilyn’s identity became commodified. Broadcasted across the country, the American public consumed the Monroe personality for enjoyment. She became the perfect muse for Warhol, fitting directly into his artistic philosophy involving mass-production and consumer culture.
Warhol’s Marilyn images are some of his most famous works of art. The prints continue to sell for top dollar today. Ultimately, the work is highly reflective of Andy’s signature style, and the concepts that brought him inspiration. The Marilyn series was greatly influential in the emergence of pop-art as a popular genre, and is amongst some of the most important works of modern art. Andy famously created an “icon out of an icon”. With Marilyn Monroe 24, Warhol effectively doubles Marilyn’s legacy as a staple of entertainment and visual art.