As a golden legend of Hollywood, Marilyn Monroe held particular fascination for Andy Warhol. Her suicide on 5 August, 1962 struck a personal chord and triggered a dedicatory series that isolated her beautiful and elusive face against variously colored, almost acidic, backdrops.
Created in the months after her death, Four Marilyns emerges as a poignant embodiment of an extinguished star. They first came together, however, not on the canvas but at Stephen Bruce’s sweet shop, Serendipity.
Three days after Monroe’s death, Bruce approached Warhol who was dining at the restaurant with his friend Ed Plunkett and pleaded, ‘Oh, Andy, will you do a book for us on Marilyn?’ Serendipity already sold several of Warhol’s 1950s style books illustrated with cherubs and cats, so when the artist agreed, “Well, okay,” no one could surmise what was to come next.
‘As for whether it’s symbolical to paint Monroe in such violent colors: it’s beauty, and she’s beautiful and if something’s beautiful it’s pretty colours, that’s all’
Marilyn was one of the first paintings in which Warhol introduced what became his signature range of vibrant colors. Although the Pop Art movement was defined partly by its often vivacious use of pigment, much of Warhol’s earlier work was executed in monotones and it was only in 1962 that he first began to use an increasing number of colors on the same canvas. As Warhol said, ‘As for whether it’s symbolical to paint Monroe in such violent colors: it’s beauty, and she’s beautiful and if something’s beautiful it’s pretty colors, that’s all.’
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