Marilyn Monroe 28 is a screenprint by Andy Warhol. In 1967, Andy Warhol published 10 portraits of Marilyn Monroe, which would become some of his most iconic images. Marilyn Monroe 28 embodies Warhol’s pop-art style; he bathes the actress in bright blue, pink, yellow, and green colors. The photograph used for the portfolio was taken by Gene Korman as a publicity shot for Marilyn’s 1953 movie Niagara. The images have become some of the most recognizable artifacts of the pop-art movement, which Warhol popularized. Notably, the complete Marilyn suite ranks amongst Warhol’s highest-selling portfolios of all time.
Warhol’s most widely known Marilyn portraits come from this portfolio, but he originally reproduced the movie star in his 1962 silkscreen painting Marilyn Diptych. His decision to create the Marilyn portraits came after her suicide in August of 1962. She became the perfect muse for Warhol, who found inspiration in fame, celebrity life, and commercial entertainment, among other venues. Warhol was also sensitive to popular perceptions toward famous figures, and his fascination towards the actress peaked after her suicide. Specifically, he noticed how her reputation evolved after her tragic death, and her meaning as a symbol continued to grow. For Andy, Marilyn Monroe was a multi-dimensional figure who embodied the zeitgeist of the 50s and 60s. Her life culminated in an intersection of fame, glamour, and untimely death. She was regarded as a sex symbol in the 1950s, at a time when society’s attitudes toward sex were mainly conservative.
Warhol’s decision to create portraits of Monroe also relates to his interest in the industrial advancement of the 20th century. The “miracles” of modern industry, such as mass-production, factories, and consumer culture, seemed to obsess him. In this way, Andy’s portraits of Marilyn riff on the idea of identity as commodity. As a quintessential product of Hollywood, Marilyn is a staple of the entertainment industry; her image consumed and enjoyed by viewers across the globe. Considering this, Warhol recreates Monroe as a hyperreal image of American entertainment, and the perfect example of Hollywood’s shimmering prestige.
The screenprint method—often used in factories to produce labels and other images—allows Warhol to showcase the superstar as she appeared under the limelight in the mind of the public. He reflects this image back to us: presenting her not as she exists in reality, but as we have imagined her. Void of imperfections and flaunting a myriad of glamorous colors, Warhol paints not an individual person, but a greater idea.
Ultimately, Warhol’s depictions of Monroe became some of his most famous and valuable prints. Famously, Warhol created an “icon out of an icon,” doubling Marilyn’s popularity in the world of entertainment as well as the history of visual art. Marilyn Monroe 28 is a stunning badge of the pop-art movement, and resides among the most culturally significant works of modern art.