As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are temporarily closed to the public as of Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. We are not announcing a reopening date at this time.
Based on a publicity still from Marilyn Monroe's 1953 film Niagara, Andy Warhol's portrait of the film star conveys both her glamour and fragility. A gifted performer, Monroe became an iconic sex symbol, entertaining troops in Korea and electrifying movie audiences. Despite her success, she maintained an air of vulnerability. Warhol capitalized on these contradictions, first portraying Monroe after her 1962 death from a drug overdose. Using silkscreens, he created multiple renditions of the actress. By emphasizing the images' off-register printing, Warhol created a powerful metaphor for the dissolution of Monroe's career and the blinding impact of her overexposure. In this screenprint, part of a series of ten, Monroe's sensual features dissolve into a nearly impenetrable mask as Warhol's non-naturalistic colors and their improper alignment produce a jarring effect, at once familiar and alienating.