Famous Friday // Marilyn Diptych

Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych, acrylic on canvas, 2054 x 1448 mm, 1962. Location: Tate Modern

During the Fall 2017 semester, I enrolled in a Contemporary Art course simply because it was taught by one of my favorite art history professors. I haven’t had that much of an interest in contemporary art because I thought that I didn’t understand it, or that it wasn’t real art. Several years ago I even walked through a few floors of Tate Modern, in London, hoping to further understand the topic. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t appreciate the contemporary art that was at Tate. But now, after taking a course on Contemporary art I feel much differently. So get ready for this week’s Famous Friday featuring one of Warhol’s most recognized work of art – Marilyn Diptych.

Marilyn Diptych is made on two silver screened canvases. Warhol screen printed 50 images of Marilyn Monroe onto each side of the canvas. This form looks very familiar to Christian iconic diptychs. This could potentially be referencing the way that society places celebrities on a pedestal in a similar way that Christians apotheosize Jesus and the Virgin. Check out an example below:

Jan Gossaert, Diptych of Jean Carondelet, 1517.

Christian diptych art wasn’t the only art movement that Warhol was referencing in this piece. For example, Warhol was acknowledging the works of Jackson Pollock and the abstract expressionism movements. This can be seen in the all over composition of the work as well as in the carelessness of the application of the paint. And of course, another connection between the two can be drawn in the fact of the monumental scale of the diptych.

However, like all of Warhol’s works his Marilyn Diptych was not simply trying to critique Christianity, but instead was attempting to critique all of modern and contemporary life. We know that the image that Warhol appropriated was from Niagara in 1953. Warhol is a distinguished illustrator and could have easily drawn his own image of Marilyn. Instead, he appropriated a press release image in order to comment on the consumer society which we live in.

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