Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987) Marilyn, 1967, Screenprint on paper, Gift from the Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Alexander E. Racolin, 1995.13.49

Today’s post comes from Nicole M. Roylance, Coordinator of Public Education and Information.

On June 1, 1928, Norma Jean Mortenson was born in Los Angeles. In 1946, she changed her name to Marilyn Monroe and began to appear in movies. Even after her death in 1962, Marilyn Monroe- her image and her biography- have remained fixtures in the American imagination.

The publicity still of Monroe from the film Niagara that inspired Warhol.

Andy Warhol shared this fascination with the Hollywood star. In the years following her death, he reproduced and altered a publicity still of Monroe several times. This repetition of Monroe’s face has been interpreted as Warhol’s comment on the commodification of the actress; the original is lost in repetition and the unique is consumed by the ubiquitous. Marilyn Monroe was no longer an individual but an icon.

Unknown to Warhol, Monroe had written in an unpublished autobiography, “I knew I belonged to the public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful but because I had never belonged to anything or anyone else.”