Marilyn Monroe 27 is one of 10 screen prints included in Andy Warhol’s 1967 Marilyn portfolio. This version may be referred to as the copper Marilyn, referencing her face, or possibly the magenta Marilyn in reference to the background. Warhol originally printed the actress’s portrait in a diptych from 1962, but revisited her image five years later to create some of his most iconic prints. The portfolio depicts Marilyn as the perfect symbol of Hollywood fame, beauty, and glamour, presenting her in high-contrast vibrant colors. The portraits have become some of the most significant works of the Pop Art movement, which Andy pioneered.
In 1962, Warhol became inspired to paint Marilyn Monroe after her tragic suicide. His original creation, Marilyn Diptych, consists of 50 painted images of the actress in color as well as black and white. It is amongst his most notable works, but the Marilyn series from 1967 is perhaps even more popular. For all of his Monroe portraits, Warhol used the same photograph: a publicity shot by Gene Korman for Monroe’s 1953 film Niagara. His decision to use the publicity photo for his series sparked controversy about artistic appropriation. People began to question the extent to which an artist can reuse a readymade motif before it becomes a copyright issue.
As some of his most recognizable screen prints, the Marilyn portraits reflect Andy’s infatuation with celebrity life and the pop-culture of mid-century America. He drew heavy inspiration from these themes, as well as concepts like mass-production, consumer culture, and industrial advancement. Overall, Warhol found passion in highly visible images and objects, and the material factors that shaped the American condition. Marilyn Monroe became a sex symbol in the 1950s, at a time when sex was still fairly taboo. Her acting career was highly successful, and she became a hyper-famous superstar, and a staple of America’s entertainment industry.
After her death, Warhol reproduced Marilyn’s portrait in pop-art fashion, further immortalizing her image as an expression of pop-culture. Fame, splendor, and tragedy saturated Monroe’s life. She was a quintessential figure of the Hollywood limelight, and her story embodies the American dream. Thus, she became the perfect must for Warhol. He understood Monroe for her cultural significance, and recognized her as a mass-produced product of the entertainment industry. For Warhol, Marilyn was not just an actress, but a representation of the way American media romanticizes and markets certain identities. Experimenting with the screen print technique, Warhol recreates her image just as society imagined her. He frees her from her imperfections, bathes her in a myriad of lavish colors, and presents her repetitively. Indeed, Warhol created hundreds of Marilyn portraits, including trial proofs and numbered editions.
Ultimately, Warhol’s Marilyn images were greatly influential in the emergence of pop-art, and are cemented in modern art history. With Marilyn Monroe 27, Warhol captures the essence of his society’s desire, and projects the American ideal back to us. He showcases not a single individual, but confronts his audience with their own luxurious fantasies.