Marilyn Monroe 30 is a famous screenprint by Pop artist Andy Warhol. Warhol’s Marilyn images are some of his most recognizable works. He presents Marilyn Monroe as the embodiment of high society and American pop-culture, creating an “icon out of an icon.” Marilyn Monroe 30 is one of 10 screen prints of the actress which Andy created in 1967. In this print, Marilyn looks like a colorized negative, with a deep hot-pink face and seafoam hair. Originally, Andy reproduced Marilyn’s portrait after her death in 1962 in Marilyn Diptych, and would revisit the artist multiple times in his career. Warhol’s Marilyn images helped usher in the pop-art movement, and they stand as some of the most significant works of modern art. Notably, The full Marilyn Suite ranks amongst Warhol’s top 10 most valuable portfolios ever sold.
The photo Warhol used for the series was taken by Gene Korman as a publicity shot for Monroe’s 1953 movie Niagara. Warhol used photographs all throughout his career—oftentimes photos he took himself. Experimenting with screen printing, he opted for the method of utilizing readymade images and adding his own flair. This set him apart from many artists of the time, who preferred the stereotypical painterly style. However, the decision to reuse the publicity photo sparked controversy amongst the art world. People began questioning the extent to which an artist can appropriate an image for their own work. Thus, the Marilyn portraits have acquired some notoriety over the years, but remain some of Warhol’s most successful works.
Andy’s artistic philosophy involved themes like fame, glamour, and beauty; as well as mechanical production and the modern miracles of industrial society. Whether he was painting soup cans, Kellog’s Corn Flakes, or celebrities like Mick Jagger and Liz Taylor, his central motifs revolved around pop-culture, and his idiosyncratic views of the human condition in industrial America. After Marilyn’s tragic suicide in 1962, he became inspired to paint the larger-than-life celebrity as a memorial.
Marilyn Monroe became a sex symbol amidst the conservative culture of the 1950s, and obtained world-class fame with her highly successful acting career. She represented the ideal American sensation: an icon of glamour, fame, and success. Consequently, she became the perfect muse for Warhol, who viewed her personality in various dimensions. Not only did Marilyn represent the quintessential superstar, but Warhol saw her as a top-selling product of the entertainment industry. Warhol paints the idea of Monroe: as an object of American consumption.
Andy’s fascination with mass-production is evident in his method, too, as screen print technology is common in factories. Thus, Andy produced hundreds of Marilyn portraits in his lifetime, embodying the repetitive nature of mechanical production and marketed commodities. The portraits show Marilyn void of all imperfections, and cloak her in a bright variety of dazzling colors. In Marilyn Monroe 30, Andy presents her not as an individual, but as an idol who invokes the American imagination of high society. The complete portfolio contains some of Warhol’s greatest work, and cemented his place in modern art history forever.