Essay on Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe

The most extraordinary aspect to Andy Warhol’s famous painting of Marilyn Monroe’s face is how he forms his own version of her. Marilyn Monroe’s face is very recognizable, and almost everyone knows what she looks like. Warhol succeeds in taking a famous face, and recreating it according to his own style.

The first thing I see when I look at this painting is large areas of colors. I see a green background, bright yellow hair, a pink face, green eye shadow, yellow eyes, red lips, a green mole, and a red area that appears to be her shirt. The second thing I see when I look at the poster again is black. I see black shading in the hair and around the face, black shading that creates the eyes, eyebrows and nose, black shading in the lips, and a black mole inside the green one.

Another thing I notice about this painting is how it gets smaller and more complex in the middle. The green background is large and has almost no detail to it. Then the large area of yellow hair has black shading that gives it movement and dimension. Next, the eyes, nose, and mouth are created within the pink heart-shaped face. Warhol uses black shading to create the eyebrows and eyes. He gives Marilyn green eye shadow and paints yellow in her inner eye. Her eyelids and eyelashes are thick, as if she is wearing black eyeliner and mascara. Her little nose is also created with black shading, and her mole consists of a black dot with a larger green dot imperfectly surrounding it. Her lips are full and seductive, and it looks as though Warhol outlined and colored her lips in with red paint, and then proceeded to shade them inside with black. He also shades a lot along the left side of her face, into her red blouse.

I notice how Warhol balances these two opposites, color and black, perhaps to highlight the two facets of Marilyn’s life. The colors that he uses are not true to form, but it works regardless. No one really has hair that yellow, a face that pink, or lips that red. Also, it seems rare to wear green eye shadow that bright or have yellow eyes. The effect of this exaggeration of colors is that it makes Marilyn look cartoon-like, and almost not real. This represents Marilyn’s public life. Externally, Marilyn led a glamorous life full of parties, celebrities, and wealth, but that was fake and overdone, just like the colors. Internally, however, her personal life was full of scandal, deceit, and heartache. This private side of Marilyn Monroe is evident through the black that forms her eyes. Though her lips do give off a sexy feeling, the shading and detailing around her eyes tell a deeper story. She looks sad and hurt, as if she is yearning for someone to help her. It is quite impressive how Warhol manages to accomplish that without losing his signature pop art style of bright colors and animated images.

The message that I get from this piece is that nothing is ever what it seems. Warhol uses vivid colors and dark shading to emphasize this idea. The large areas of color symbolize a happy exterior. Things may seem to be wonderful and great on the outside, but when given a deeper look, everything has some black on the inside.

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