Pop artist Peter Max, dubbed ‘the zen master of colour’, has teamed up with the estate of Milton Greene to create a series of images of Marilyn, on display in an exhibition titled ‘Homage to Colour’, now at the Angela King Gallery in New Orleans until June 23.
As Max told David Lee Simmons of NOLA.com, his fascination with Marilyn began with a personal encounter in New York, sixty years ago. (He thinks it occurred around 1953, though it may actually have been a year or two later, after Marilyn moved to the city permanently – and, coincidentally, when many of Greene’s photos of Marilyn were shot. Monroe’s visits to Carnegie Hall, close to where Max saw her, have been noted here.)
“‘I was at the 57th Street school,’ he said, referring to the now-iconic Art Students League of New York, incubator of countless artists. ‘It was across from Carnegie Hall, and I was sitting on the steps of our building. I was kind of on the side, sitting with friends of mine, and this woman, beyond gorgeous, walks by in high heels. And I just couldn’t take my eyes off her!
‘After she passed by, she turned around and told me, Hey, I love your colorful pants! Actually, I had on regular pants, khaki pants, really, but from the knees down there was paint splatter all over them. She was remarking on the splatter of all those colors. Then I said to my friend, Ronnie, that’s Marilyn Monroe.
‘I’m looking at a Marilyn Monroe I just painted. I can’t tell you why. I mean, she had the most stunning features — an absolute miracle from God. And she had this beauty and charisma in her face that was just beyond belief. The nose, cheeks, eyes, everything was perfectly in balance.
‘Years ago, I just decided to paint the [photographs]. I used to paint her a little bit before that. I had these paintings of her in my studio, and a dealer said, We’ve got to show those in the gallery. So I started painting some more.'”