Andy Warhol

Marilyn Diptych


Not on display

Andy Warhol 1928–1987
Silkscreen ink and acrylic paint on 2 canvases
Support (each): 2054 × 1448 × 20 mm
Purchased 1980

Display caption

Warhol made his first paintings of Marilyn Monroe soon after the actor died of a drug overdose on 5 August 1962. Warhol used a publicity photo for her 1953 film Niagara as the source image. The use of two contrasting canvases for Marilyn Diptych illustrates the contrast between the public life of the star, who at the time was one of the most famous women alive, and her private self. This was not necessarily Warhol’s intention. He created this work when the art collectors Burton and Emily Tremaine visited Warhol’s home. They suggested that two canvases he had already made be presented as a diptych, to which Warhol responded, ‘gee whiz yes’.

Gallery label, August 2020

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Catalogue entry


Both canvases inscribed on back ‘Andy Warhol/62’
Acrylic on canvas (diptych), each panel 80 7/8×57 (205.4×144.7); overall dimensions 80 7/8×114 (205.4×289.4)
Purchased from Mr and Mrs Burton
Tremaine through the Pace Gallery, New York (Grant-in-Aid) 1980
Prov: Mr and Mrs Burton Tremaine, New York and Meriden, Conn. (purchased from the artist through the Stable Gallery, New York, 1962)
Exh: Six Painters and the Object, Guggenheim Museum, New York, March–June 1963 (works not numbered); The New Art, Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn., March 1964 (43, repr.-the left-hand panel only, probably the only part exhibited); The Atmosphere of '64, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, April–June 1964 (works not numbered); The New American Realism, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Mass., February–April 1965 (works not numbered, repr.); Art of the United States: 1690–1966, Whitney Museum, New York, September–November 1966 (284); Works by Leading Artists in Homage to Marilyn Monroe, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, December 1967 (47, repr.); Andy Warhol, Pasadena Art Museum, May–June 1970 (works not listed); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, July–September 1970 (works not listed); Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, October–November 1970 (works not listed); Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, December 1970–January 1971 (works not listed); Tate Gallery, February–March 1971 (19, repr.); Whitney Museum, New York, April–June 1971 (works not listed); Printed Art: A View of Two Decades, Museum of Modern Art, New York, February–March 1980 (works not numbered, repr. in colour); Major Works of the '60s, Pace Gallery, New York, April 1980 (no catalogue)
Lit: Rainer Crone, Andy Warhol, 1970, no.67, p.289, repr.p.118
Repr: Jules David Prown and Barbara Rose, American Painting from the Colonial Period to the Present, New York 1977, p.212 in colour; Milton W.Brown, Sam Hunter, John Jacobus and others, American Art: Painting-Sculpture-Architecture-Decorative Arts-Photography, New York 1979, p.558 in colour; The Tate Gallery: Illustrated Biennial Report 1980–82, 1983, p.50 in colour

Marilyn Monroe died tragically from an overdose of sleeping pills on 5 August 1962, the same month that Warhol started doing silkscreens. Between then and the end of the year he made at least twenty-three paintings of her using a silkscreen technique, all based on the same photograph, a 20th Century Fox still taken by Gene Kornman as publicity for the film Niagara of 1953. Some are in colour and some just in black and white.

The present work, which consists of two panels, the left-hand one in colour and the right-hand in black and white, each panel with twenty-five images in five rows, is the largest of his early paintings of her and is usually regarded as the culmination of the series. Mrs Burton Tremaine, who with her husband bought it from him in 1962, soon after it was completed, recalls:

'We bought the picture directly from Andy Warhol at his Studio, before he had a dealer. I think it was Ivan Karp who urged us to go to Warhol's house on Lexington Avenue. His house was opposite a supermarket, and the soup cans were quite visible from his front entrance. Andy had two stereo machines running at high pitch, one playing Bach, the other Rock. Andy himself was the only low key note in the Studio. He seemed shy and it took a bit of coaxing before he showed us everything, and we bought several pieces that day. He first showed us the black MARILYNS, and several pictures later the coloured one appeared. I said I thought they should be presented as a diptych, Andy replied “gee whiz yes” so he brought back the black one, stood it next to the coloured one and we all saw we had achieved a very complex and moving statement about MARILYN so I really felt I was a collaborator! And, of course, we bought them both.’ (Letter of 22 September 1982.)

Because of its size the Tremaines were not able to hang it in their home very often, so they lent it for most of the time from 1970 onwards to the Wadsworth Atheneum at Hartford, Connecticut, where their son was President for several years. Included in the exhibition Printed Art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in the early part of 1980, it was withdrawn from the exhibition early, at the end of March, for inclusion in Major Works of the '60s at the Pace Gallery, which was a show of works from the Tremaines's collection.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984

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