Pop Art Before Warhol: McHale, Hamilton and Marilyn

We’ve already heard about Marilyn’s Scottish ancestry (see here), but as Craig Williams reports for Glasgow Live, local art pioneer John McHale was inspired by Marilyn – while his London-based colleague Richard Hamilton featured her iconic pose from The Seven Year Itch in an early installation, as shown above – long before Andy Warhol made her his muse.

“The Maryhill area of Glasgow can lay claim to a few things of note … But few would ever imagine that it could hold claim to a title many might believe is held by New York – that of being the birthplace of Pop Art. It wasn’t Warhol who could be considered as the true ‘forefather’ of Pop Art, nor indeed did he coin the ubiquitous term we all know today thanks (in the most part) to his work. That belongs to the almost forgotten Scottish artist, art theorist, sociologist and future studies searcher John McHale – a man born and bred in Maryhill.

McHale coined the term ‘Pop Art’ back in 1954 to describe the aesthetic expressed in art in response to the commercialization of Western culture … Yet it was to be the groundbreaking and hugely popular This Is Tomorrow exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1956 that would light the Pop Art touchpaper. The exhibition – which McHale played a central part in – was described by esteemed art critic Reyner Banham as being the ‘first Pop Art manifestation to be seen in any art gallery in the world’. McHale, alongside Richard Hamilton and John Voelcker, presented images from popular culture from magazines, film publicity posters and comics as part of the exhibition.

And as part of the exhibition, McHale was able to provide plenty of the material, having returned from a scholarship at Yale University with a black metal trunk full to the brim with magazine clippings … Yet it wasn’t until 1962 when Pop Art was effectively ‘rubber-stamped’ in the America psyche via the “Symposium on Pop Art” at the Museum of Modern Art in  New York – the same year that a certain Andy Warhol held his first ever solo exhibition in the city … Warhol’s exhibit featured some of his most well-known works, including ‘Marilyn Diptych’ … which repeated Marilyn Monroe’s image to evoke her ubiquitous presence in the media – it’s very possible that Warhol was inspired to produce the work by none other than Maryhill’s own McHale.

That’s because, in a collection of writings concerning popular imagery and fine art called ‘The Expendable Icon’ published in Architectural Design magazine in 1959, McHale referenced Marilyn Monroe in a section entitled ‘The Girl With The Most’. Monroe, who McHale regarded as ‘doubly interesting’ featured among many popular ‘ikons’ he identified alongside Elvis Presley – another of Warhol’s subjects. McHale wrote that the film star was ‘held up as an example of someone not only defined by personal iconography, but whose image is saturated in the media to such an extent that she serves as a model for universal imitation’.

1962 would see McHale emigrate to live in the US for definite … John McHale (Jr.) notes the difference between his father’s work and that of Warhol. Where Warhol was focused on being a celebrity artist, McHale’s agenda was to extend the boundaries of art to the masses according to his son … Incredibly, his father was also asked to explain his Pop Art ideas by Time magazine and be featured on the cover, but ‘regrettably refused for personal family reasons … From my discussions with my father it was apparent that he originally conceived of Pop Art as being more than just some glib advertising and reflection of popular culture … This may not seem radical in the present century, but half a century ago these were fighting words and cutting edge concepts. Pop Art was about opening up aesthetic possibilities and making art freely available to all …'”

Marilyn Fan’s Rare Snapshot Revealed

A fan’s candid snapshot of Marilyn, plus her autograph, was sold for $2,250 at Nate D. Sanders Auctions yesterday. (It’s unclear if the man in the photo is the lucky fan, as his face is cut off. But his clothing reminds me of Joe DiMaggio when he joined Marilyn in Canada during the filming of River Of No Return in the summer of 1953.)

“Marilyn Monroe signed address book, with Marilyn writing ”Love & Kisses / Marilyn Monroe” on the ‘M’ page. Autograph was obtained at a chance encounter in Los Angeles, circa 1954, as Marilyn was leaving the studio lot, and is accompanied by a glossy 3.75” square photo capturing the encounter. Address book measures 2.75” x 4.25”, with various pages filled in. Marilyn’s page has some mild browning and wear but no writing other than hers. Overall very good condition.”

A previously published photo of Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio in Canada, 1953

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Marilyn Takes Wonder Woman’s Crown

Like most Canadian theatres, Paradise Cinemas in British Columbia is currently closed. But as the Williams Lake Tribune reports, Cariboo Art Beat have released photos from their new mural, created by Tiffany Jorgensen and Sarah Sigurdson, which will greet moviegoers when it reopens. As you can see, Marilyn is placed here with Clint Eastwood (in his ‘Man With No Name’ guise), Indiana Jones, and a Minion from Despicable Me. She’s depicted in the apparel of Marvel Comics heroine Wonder Woman, holding a crown like she did in a 1953 publicity shot by John Florea (wearing a Travilla gown from How to Marry a Millionaire.)

‘Forever Marilyn’ Sculptor Seward Johnson Has Died

John Seward Johnson, the sculptor who created a 50 ft. likeness of Marilyn, has died aged 89, the Desert Sun reports. The artist, whose grandfather founded the Johnson & Johnson empire, began a highly successful career in sculpture in 1980. ‘Forever Marilyn’ was first unveiled in Chicago in 2011; after touring the U.S. and Australia, it is set to return to Palm Springs later this year (and a number of smaller replicas are also on display across America.)

When Phil Stanziola Met Marilyn

Phil Stanziola, who passed away recently, worked as a press photographer in New York, the Daily News reports. On September 9, 1954, Marilyn Monroe arrived in NYC to film exterior scenes for The Seven Year Itch. Over the next ten days, she posed for the Ballerina sitting at Milton Greene’s studio on Lexington Avenue; undertook numerous interviews and photo shoots, and hosted a press party at the St. Regis Hotel; took in Broadway shows, and dined out with husband Joe DiMaggio; and shot the movie’s iconic ‘subway scene’. With such a frantic schedule, it’s not surprising to see her kicking off her shoes in her hotel suite for Stanziola’s camera.

Warhol’s Marilyn at Tate Modern

Photo by Matt Durham

A major Andy Warhol retrospective opens at London’s Tate Modern tomorrow, through to September 6, featuring his original Marilyn Diptych from 1962.

“Marilyn Monroe died in August 1962, having overdosed on barbiturates. In the following four months, Warhol made more than twenty silkscreen paintings of her, all based on the same publicity photograph from the 1953 film Niagara. Warhol found in Monroe a fusion of two of his consistent themes: death and the cult of celebrity. By repeating the image, he evokes her ubiquitous presence in the media. The contrast of vivid colour with black and white, and the effect of fading in the right panel are suggestive of the star’s mortality.”

Marilyn ‘Jumps’ to the Stars

Philippe Halsman’s celebrity portraits are the subject of the latest issue of Reporters Sans Frontières, with a photo from his Jump! series on the cover, and 11 more pages of Marilyn inside. (She previously covered the December 2012 issue, dedicated to Sam Shaw.)

Here in the UK, Marilyn’s early modelling career is featured in an article about movie stars’ lucky breaks, from the March issue of Yours Retro (with Lauren Bacall on the cover.)

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Jock Carroll’s Marilyn in Niagara Archive

An archive containing more than 200 negatives from the filming of Niagara, part of the late photographer Jock Carroll’s estate, are will go under the virtual hammer this Wednesday, March 4th, at RR Auctions (with copyright), TMZ reports. Bidding starts at $10,000, but the online auctioneers hope it will sell for much more.

Carroll’s stunning book about the shoot, Falling For Marilyn, was posthumously published in 1996 and includes his interviews with Marilyn. His novel, The Shy Photographer (1964), is also said to have been inspired by this memorable encounter. (You can view more of Carroll’s photos here.)

A number of other Monroe-related items will be auctioned, including her December 1961 letter to Lee Strasberg detailing her unrealised plans to expand the Actors Studio and Marilyn Monroe Productions.

“The pics — 227 total, 198 of which depict Marilyn — were snapped by Canadian journalist and photog Jock Carroll in 1952, while she was preparing for her first top billing as Rose Loomis in the noir thriller.

The set of photos is mostly comprised of black-and-white negatives but includes some color positive transparencies. And, along with shots of Monroe, there are several of the sets, scenery and of course … Niagara Falls.

The negatives could become much more than just a collector’s item too … because they include the copyright to the images. Carroll signed the rights over to his son [Angus Carroll] before he died, and the son will grant them to the buyer.

This means the highest bidder at the auction will have the right to print and even sell copies from the negatives, which could lead to big bucks. Commercial use requires permission from Monroe’s estate, however.”

UPDATE: The Josh Carroll archive has been sold for $61,866.25 – more details on the auction here.

Nina Mae Fowler Inspired by Marilyn

British artist Nina Mae Fowler just posted this on Instagram:

“A small drawing of Marilyn as she leaves the hospital, shortly after suffering an ectopic pregnancy. The press and the crowds waited outside so she was forced to put on makeup and a smile. The frame is handmade in aluminium and reminiscent of a surgical dish/tray …”

Nina often uses Hollywood iconography in her art, and has drawn Marilyn several times – I wrote about her work here.