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Andy Warhol did portraits of many famous people during his career, but one of his most widely recognized portraits is his silkscreen of Marilyn Monroe, an international celebrity that encapsulated the popular culture of her time. Warhol began work on his Marilyn series after her suicide in 1962. He later stated, “I realized that everything I was doing must have been Death,” connecting Monroe’s post mortem portrait to the exploration of mortality in his Death and Disaster series.
Working from a publicity photo for her 1953 film, Niagra, Warhol perfectly preserved Monroe’s larger than life personality, glamour and charisma. While this work is most often seen in bright playful colors, it was also produced as part of Warhol’s retrospective series in the late 1970s – early 1980s, called Marilyn Reversals. For this series, Warhol reversed the negative of Marilyn’s image and used different color variations in both dark and light hues.