Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych, 1962

16 Aug

As one of the most influential modern art pieces, Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych exemplifies everything Pop art with its explicit references to an icon of pop culture: Marilyn Monroe. Pop art originated in London with the Independent Group (IG), who were attracted to advertisements depicting American materialism and mass culture. Everything mass culture- movies, music, advertisements- became the central subject of British Pop art. Warhol was influenced by the British Pop artists and began to focus on popular culture. His studio became known as The Factory, a nod to the industrial mode of production used to churn out mass amounts of material goods. Marilyn Diptych was the first painting in which Warhol used the assembly-line technique of silk-screening photographic images onto a canvas, permitting him to create many versions of a single subject, instead of hand painting.

Like everyone else in America, Warhol was attracted to American movie stars like Monroe. He liked to use images that anyone would instantly recognize in his art. His aesthetic becomes the mechanical, mass produced objects or images people saw every day. The five rows of Monroe’s portrait resemble the filmic strip, acknowledging her status as a movie star. The repetition signals mass production, as products and images are turned out one by one, while also serving to undermine the image’s meaning. The photograph Warhol uses of Monroe is a publicity photograph from the movie Niagara, marking his interest in her public self and not in her private self. The diptych style is taken from the Byzantine icons of Christian saints. By placing Monroe’s portraits in the diptych, Warhol is commenting on the saint-like nature of the famous, which gives them a kind of holiness and immortality. Marilyn Diptych is an icon of Pop art due to its references to pop culture and its comments on mass production and consumption.

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