Twenty Marilyns. Andy Warhol. Explanation of the picture

Twenty Marilyns is a work by Andy Warhol shortly after the death of actress Marilyn Monroe.

The explanation of 20 marilyns on video

 

Warhol began drawing this painting based on a photograph by Gene Korman for the movie Niagara, which Marilyn would star alongside Joseph Cotten and Jean Peters, under the direction of Henry Hathaway in 1953. [Photograph that you can see below]

The technique used by Warhol was screen printing, a technique where an image is worked on the canvas.

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The artist worked for four months on different paintings based on Korman’s photography, making up to twenty different paintings. This way of working, Warhol called it «assembly line effect».

Twenty Marilyns by Andy Warhol
Twenty Marilyns by Andy Warhol

The explanation of Twenty Marilyns by Andy Warhol

The underlying idea was to use the repetitive image of a popular and celebrated actress like Marilyn Monroe to criticize what is considered as ‘work of art’ in a world that lives the infinite and serial reproduction of any object considering it as artistic, faithfully represented by the prevailing philosophy and that imposed – impose – the mass media, the mass media.

Warhol tried to criticize what is considered as ‘work of art’ in a world that lives the infinite and serial reproduction of any object considering it artistic

On the other hand, using Marilyn Monroe’s image was not done by Warhol at random.

I wanted to question the distinction that was lived, and lived, between popular art and the art of the elite, in a paradoxical communion.

The photograph of photographer Korman, from the movie Niagara, on which Andy Warhol worked
The photograph of photographer Korman, from the movie Niagara, on which Andy Warhol worked

Warhol chose to make this work with the technique of screen printing because he managed to represent the same image, but with small variations. He used a template and every time he removed it from the canvas, the result was different, which led him to not have total control of the result of his work.

The work in serigraphy

In this picture, the photographic image is applied to the paint, on which black ink is spread, while drying with a dryer. When manipulating the templates with which Warhol worked, the shadows and ‘spots’ that are observed in the painting are created.

Then, on the image, Warhol applied white paint, something we only see in Marilyn’s teeth, since the rest: hair, lips, eye contour, skin, etc., were painted with color.

And neither these colors, cheerful and bright, were chosen at random. What Warhol intended was to achieve an artificial effect, although the result is considered to be quite naturalistic.

Andy Warhol next to the image and screenprint of the 20 Marilyns painting
Andy Warhol next to the image and screenprint of the 20 Marilyns painting

Twenty Marilyns references

Many art critics have seen similarities between the Twenty Marilyns of Warhol and the Byzantine icons of the Catholic tradition.

Although Warhol wanted to criticize the iconoclast referents and put an end to the consideration of what everyone speaks as a ‘masterpiece’, his work has finally become a ‘work of art’ and a personal and A time.

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