Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
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Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

Two Marilyns (Double Marilyn)

Details
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Two Marilyns (Double Marilyn)
signed twice, dedicated, numbered and dated twice 'Andy Warhol 62 To Todd B With Love A692.101' (on the overlap)
silkscreen ink and graphite on canvas
26 x 14 in. (66 x 35.6 cm.)
Executed in 1962.
Provenance
Eleanor Ward, New York
Todd Brassner, New York
Blum Helman Gallery, New York
Private collection, Munich
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 20 November 1996, lot 40
Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York
Private collection, New York
Anon. sale; Christie's, London, 19 October 2008, lot 26
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Literature
G. Frei and N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings and Sculptures 1961-1963, vol. 1, New York, 2000, pp. 243 and 248, no. 278 (illustrated).
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Lot essay

My first experiments with screens were heads of Troy Donahue and Warren Beatty, and then when Marilyn Monroe happened to die that month, I got the idea to make screens of her beautiful face – the first Marilyns.”

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol’s paintings of Marilyn Monroe have become some of the most recognizable cultural icons of the latter part of the twentieth century. With his 1962 painting Gold Marilyn Monroe, which is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the actress became Warhol’s most important muse, and a subject he returned to again and again throughout his career. The result is a body of work that contains some of the most striking and iconic paintings that the artist ever produced. Dating from the same year as Gold Marilyn…, Two Marilyns (Double Marilyn) is an important early example, executed in the aftermath of the actress’s tragic death in August that year; its self-possessed palette acting almost as a memento mori not only on the fragility of life, but also of the fleeting nature of the fame that the actress craved, and which the artist found so fascinating. This painting was first acquired by Eleanor Ward, the New York art dealer who gave the artist his first solo exhibition in the city at her famed Stable Gallery in 1962, and remained in her private collection until her death in 1984.

Rendered with remarkable clarity directly onto the painted surface of the canvas, the iconic features that made Monroe adored by her millions of fans are rendered crisply in black silkscreen ink. Her famously luscious lips are curled into her classic pout; her piercing eyes stare out from the surface of the canvas, and are rendered in such detail that—particularly in the upper image—one can make out individual long eyelashes; and the individual strands of her perfectly coiffed bottle blond hair are given volume by the light and dark shadows that focus attention on her face like a halo. Finally, her most famous feature of all, her beauty spot, sits illuminated like a pinpoint on the surface of her cheek.

In addition to the exceptional clarity of the images, Two Marilyns (Double Marilyn) is witness to Warhol’s working process as the graphite guide lines on where to place the individual screens on the canvas are left visible. This rare feature allows us to see the precision with which Warhol worked, carefully mapping out the surface of the canvas to ensure the maximum impact of his dual portraits. Warhol was fastidious in his attempts to create the right aesthetic, and these guidelines helped to ensure that the regularity of the repeated images was kept intact throughout the screening process.

After spending much of her childhood in foster homes, Monroe began a career as a model, which soon elevated to a film contract in 1946 with Twentieth Century Fox. While her earliest film appearances were minor, her performances in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve in 1950 began to draw attention. By 1952 she had her first leading role in Don’t Bother to Knock and 1953 brought a lead in Niagara, the melodramatic film noir that profited on her seductiveness and provided the source image for Warhol’s Marilyn series. Her “dumb blonde” persona was used to comic effect in subsequent classics such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire and The Seven Year Itch.

The final years of Monroe’s life were marked by illness, personal problems and a reputation for unreliability. In fact, even the circumstances of her death, from an overdose of barbiturates, have been the subject of conjecture. Though officially classified as a “probable suicide,” the possibilities of an accidental overdose or homicide have not been ruled out. And yet, regardless of her tragic demise, Monroe’s image is just as strong today as it was at the height of her career. In 1999, Monroe was ranked as the sixth-greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. In the decades following her death, she has often been cited as both a pop and a cultural icon as well as the quintessential American sex symbol.

Warhol’s paintings of Marilyn Monroe are among the first canvases in which Warhol perfected his screen-printing technique, as he later recalled, “In August `62 I started doing silkscreens. The rubber-stamp method I’d been using to repeat images suddenly seemed too homemade; I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly-line effect. With silkscreening, you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, but slightly different each time. It was all so simple-quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it. My first experiments with screens were heads of Troy Donahue and Warren Beatty, and then when Marilyn Monroe happened to die that month, I got the idea to make screens of her beautiful face – the first Marilyns.” (A. Warhol as quoted in A. Warhol & P. Hackett, Popism, 1980, New York, p. 28).

Subsequently, Warhol’s Marilyns have become some of the most iconic images he ever produced, and examples from this series are now in major private and museum collections around the world. The shock of Warhol’s ingenuity at capturing the true essence of celebrity impressed critics of his 1962 show at the Stable Gallery which debuted Warhol’s Marilyn series, as highlighted by the critic Michael Fried. “An art like Warhol’s is necessarily parasitic upon the myths of our time,” he said, “and indirectly therefore on the machinery of fame and publicity that market these myths; and it is not at all unlikely that these myths that move us will be unintelligible (or at least starkly dated) to generations that follow. This is…to register an advance protest against the advent of a generation that will not be as moved by Warhol’s beautiful…, heart-breaking icons of Marilyn Monroe as I am. These, I think, are the most successful pieces in the show…because…Marilyn is one of the overriding myths of our time.” (M. Fried as quoted in G. Frei and N. Printz, eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné of Painting and Sculpture 1961-1963, vol. 1, New York, 2002, 247).

Warhol's embrace of popular culture heralded the artist's arrival as the vanguard of the emerging Pop Art movement. He had staged a startling and prescient panorama of American consumerism, commercial art, mass media, and popular entertainment. It is a demonstration of the enduring nature of Warhol’s art that Fried’s worries about the lasting impact of Warhol’s Marilyn have proved to be unfounded, as his images of Monroe have become some of the most admired and sought after of the past half-century.

Lot Essay Header Image: Andy Warhol in his studio, New York, 1965. Photo: © Bob Adelman.

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