1These frozen images are modern-day Madonnas... His Marilyn, Liz and Jackie become religious relics, and like Leonardo's Giocanda, they are portraits of women radiating beauty. They are not photographs of public stars but …icons of our time. They are, in essence, holy" (Peter Brandt in Women of Warhol, Marilyn, Liz & Jackie, exh. cat., New York, C&M Arts, 2000, p. 3).
Andy Warhol's art consistently represented and celebrated popular culture throughout the world. By the late 1970s, his visual language was world renowned. The Warhol look had itself become part of popular culture, as recognizable as Coca-Cola. It was therefore only natural that Warhol should turn, at this point of his intensely successful career, to his own images as sources for his work. And of these, perhaps his Marilyns were the best known.
The present work is part of the Reversal series which Warhol began in 1979. He discovered that by printing the negative image of his subjects he could totally re-invent his own art. This famous image of the Hollywood star, whose celebrity, glamour and tragic death so captivated Warhol has become both a powerful icon of its time as well as bringing Warhol's career as a Pop artist full circle. He was a tireless innovator, and the negative images that he used in the Reversal series showed his continuing willingness to experiment.
The repetition of Marilyn's image adds up to a particularly poignant portrait that has as much to do with the mass media's propagation of her legend, as with Warhol's own history and myth in a refreshing and powerful way. His obsession with glamour, which spilled into his art, meant that many of his works appeared to form modern memento mori. Warhol had only begun producing images of Marilyn once she had died, meaning that the audience first exposed to his Marilyns was acutely aware of the tragedy involved.