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Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe portraits expose the darker facet of the ‘

“If you remember the ’60s, you weren’t really there.” This well-known quip says a lot about our rose-tinted nostalgia for the last decade. The fun-loving hedonism of Woodstock and Beatlemania could also be etched into cultural reminiscence, however Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe portraits reveal a darker facet to the swinging ’60s that turns our nostalgia on its head.

Warhol’s iconic Marilyn Monroe portrait Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, attributable to go on sale at Christie’s in May, is anticipated to fetch record-breaking bids of $200 million (£153 million), making it the costliest twentieth century paintings ever auctioned. Nearly 60 years after they had been first created, Warhol’s portraits of the ill-fated Hollywood star proceed to fascinate us.

According to Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman for twentieth and twenty first century artwork, Warhol’s Marilyn is “the absolute pinnacle of American Pop and the promise of the American dream, encapsulating optimism, fragility, celebrity and iconography all at once.”

Hollywood stars had been nice sources of inspiration for the Pop artwork motion. Monroe was a recurring motif, not solely within the work of Warhol however within the work of his contemporaries, together with James Rosenquist’s Marilyn Monroe, I and Pauline Boty’s Colour Her Gone and The Only Blonde within the World.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 1964. [Image: courtesy Christie’s]

Mourning Marilyn

Born Norma Jeane Mortenson however renamed Marilyn Monroe by twentieth Century Fox, the actress went on to grow to be one of the crucial illustrious stars of Hollywood historical past, famed for her roles in traditional movies like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot. She epitomized the glitzy world of consumerism and superstar that Pop artists thought was emblematic of Fifties and Nineteen Sixties American tradition.

While Rotter’s assertion could also be true to some extent, there’s additionally a sinister edge to the Marilyns as a result of many had been produced within the months following her surprising dying in 1962. On the floor, the works might appear to be a tribute to a much-loved icon, however themes of dying, decay, and even violence lurk inside these canvases. Clues can typically be discovered within the manufacturing strategies. One of the gathering’s most well-known items, Marilyn Diptych, makes use of flaws from the silkscreen course of to create the impact of a decaying portrait. Warhol’s The Shot Marilyns consists of 4 canvases shot by way of the brow with a single bullet. In this, the creation of Warhol’s artwork is as vital because the paintings itself.

Death and Disaster

At a look, the floor stage glamour of Warhol’s Marilyn immortalizes the actress as a blonde bombshell of Hollywood’s bygone period. It is straightforward to neglect the tragedy behind the picture, but a part of our enduring fascination with Marilyn Monroe is her tragedy.

Her psychological well being struggles, her tempestuous private life, and the thriller surrounding her dying have been nicely documented in numerous biographies, movies, and tv reveals, together with Netflix’s documentary The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes and upcoming biopic Blonde. She epitomizes the acquainted narrative of the tragic icon that’s doomed to maintain repeating itself–one thing that Warhol understood all too nicely after surviving a capturing by Valerie Solanas in 1968.

The dying on the coronary heart of Warhol’s Marilyns is not only rooted in grief however can be a mirrored image of the broader cultural panorama. The Nineteen Sixties was a remarkably darkish interval in twentieth century American historical past. A short take a look at the context wherein Warhol was producing these photos reveals a decade suffering from a sequence of traumatic occasions.

Life Magazine revealed violent pictures of the Vietnam War. Television broadcasts uncovered surprising police brutality throughout civil rights marches. America was shaken by the assassinations of John F Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. Footage of JFK’s dying captured by bystander Abraham Zapruder was repeatedly broadcast on tv. Celebrated Hollywood stars had been dying younger and in tragic circumstances, from Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland to Jayne Mansfield and Sharon Tate.

President John F Kennedy within the limousine in Dallas, Texas, minutes earlier than his assassination. [Photo: Walt Cisco/Dallas Morning News/Wiki Commons]

This picture of the Nineteen Sixties is echoed by the postmodern theorist Fredric Jameson, who describes the last decade as a “virtual nightmare” and a “historical and countercultural bad trip.” Stars like Monroe weren’t as flawless as they could seem in Warhol’s portraits, however had been “notorious cases of burnout and self-destruction.”

Warhol understood this greater than anybody. His Death and Disaster sequence explores the spectacle of dying in America and affirms the Nineteen Sixties as a time of tension, terror and disaster. The sequence consists of an enormous assortment of silkscreened pictures of real-life disasters together with automobile crashes, suicides, and executions taken from newspapers and police archives. Famous deaths are additionally a central theme of the sequence, together with portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jackie Kennedy – all of whom are related to vital deaths or near-death experiences.

Death and Disaster took place in 1962 when Warhol’s collaborator Henry Geldzahler recommended that the artist ought to cease producing “affirmation of life” and as a substitute discover the darkish facet of American tradition.

He handed Warhol a duplicate of the New York Daily News, which led to the primary catastrophe portray 129 Die in Jet!.

The latest hype across the auctioning of the Marilyn portrait reveals as a lot about our time because it does about our nostalgia for the Nineteen Sixties. We select to recollect the last decade in all its wonderful technicolor, however uncovering its darker moments gives room for reconsideration. Perhaps Warhol’s Marilyn is not only a logo of the swinging ’60s, however an artifact from a time that was as turbulent and unsure as our personal.

Harriet Fletcher is an Associate Lecturer in English and History at Lancaster University. This article is republished from The Conversation underneath a Creative Commons license. Read the authentic article.

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