Category Archives: Art and Photography

Moment by Moment: John Loengard’s Marilyn

IMG_1550This photo of a radiant Marilyn opening the Sidewalk Superintendents Club at the Rockefeller Center in New York on July 2, 1957, is featured in a new book, Moment by Moment, as Liz Ronk reports for TimePhotographer John Loengard worked for Life magazine, and it would be interesting to know if he captured any other images of Marilyn that day.

Knowledge Bennett’s Pop Art Marilyn

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Orange is the New Black is not just a TV prison drama, but also the title of Los Angeles-based artist Knowledge Bennett’s first solo exhibit in New York, tracing the history of race in modern America through a Pop Art perspective. The show includes a section devoted to Marilyn, Good Girl Gone Bad (also the title of an album by Rihanna, who is featured elsewhere.)

Bennett’s portraits of Marilyn pay homage to Andy Warhol, but crucially they add a sharp political edge to the ‘gangsta’ images of MM that adorn T-shirt stalls across the globe. The artist spoke about why he chose to depict Marilyn this way in an interview with Art ON!

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“Quite often I seek to alter popular images in a very minimal way to tell a very different story. With my Marilyn Monroe series Good Girl Gone Bad, I simply added a tied bandana scarf around her head to make a statement of defiance and courage.

While researching the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, I was shocked to learn of Marilyn Monroe’s involvement and influence in helping to break the color barrier (in the entertainment industry) which existed during these times.

I developed a newfound respect for her and her contributions to society at large. To learn that this woman, who was mostly known only as a major film star and sex symbol, had the balls and compassion for others to go out on a limb and make this happen is something worth acknowledging.”

Publishing News: Marilyn’s Lost Photos, and More

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Limited Runs have produced a book based on their touring exhibit, Marilyn Monroe: Lost Photo Collection, featuring 21 images by Milton Greene, Gene Lester and Allan ‘Whitey’ Snyder. Only 125 copies have been made, priced at $95. Hopefully it will be a high-quality product, but it still seems rather expensive for such a slim volume.

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One of Marilyn’s best biographers and a friend of this blog, Michelle Morgan has recently published two new books via Lulu. The Marilyn Journal is the first in an anthology series, compiling newsletters of the UK Marilyn Lives Society, founded by Michelle in 1991. A Girl Called Pearl is a charming children’s novel – not about Marilyn as such, but it is set in the Los Angeles of her childhood, so it does have some interesting parallels, and would be a great Christmas gift for readers young and old (also available via Kindle.)

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Marilyn: I Wanna Be Loved By You, an 82-page catalogue (in French) accompanying the current exhibition at Aix-en-Provence, is available from Amazon UK for £8.44.

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Photo by Fraser Penney

In the November 19 issue of Scotland’s Weekly News (with Donny Osmond on the cover), Craig Campbell picks his Top 10 MM movies. Click the photo above to read the article in full.

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Finally, Marilyn’s love of Chanel No. 5 is featured in an article about favourite perfumes in Issue 3 of UK nostalgia mag Yours Retro.

Marilyn at Julien’s: The Lois Weber Collection

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Lois Smith, publicist to Meryl Streep, Robert Redford and others, died in 2012, aged 84. “In a tough business known for steel-sharp elbows,” her New York Times obituary read, “Ms. Smith stood out for being nurturing. She was at the birth of Marilyn Monroe’s kittens...”

Born Lois Eileen Wollenweber of Brooklyn in 1928, she began working for publicist Ted Saucier in the 1950s. His most famous client was the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where he and Lois recruited celebrities who had come there to escape Hollywood’s crumbling studio system. One of them was Marilyn, who lived there for several months after moving to New York in 1955.

Lois later married journalist Gene Smith, and formed Pickwick Public Relations with Pat Newcomb – Marilyn’s publicist at the time of her death – in 1969. A number of items in the current Julien’s sale, ending today, come from her estate (under the name of Lois Weber.)

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This photo was taken by Hans Knopf on February 22, 1956, when Marilyn was walking to Cecil Beaton’s studio for their famous session. Lois, who accompanied her that morning, is generally cropped out of the picture.

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Two other photos taken by Knopf that day show Marilyn and Lois getting into a taxi cab en route to lunch at the Ambassador Hotel with society columnist Elsa Maxwell.

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Interestingly, some copies of the candid photos taken by Frieda Hull and other members of the ‘Monroe Six’ were also in Lois’ possession. The young fans gave each other copies of their photos, so perhaps they shared a few with her as well.

A 32-page transcript of Marilyn’s 1960 interview with George Belmont, submitted by Lois to Look magazine, is also on offer. Perhaps the most significant items from her estate, however, are the many beautiful photos, negatives and colour transparencies from the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. Marilyn exercised a strict  approval process over all images, and relegated these to a ‘Kill’ folder.

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Marilyn at Julien’s: A Candid Feast

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“As far as Hollywood stories go, Marilyn Monroe‘s is generally seen as a tragic one,” Time magazine observes. “Knowing what would come later, it’s easy for her fans today to look at images of the actress and add their own overlay of sadness to the pictures.”

However, the article continues, candid photos from the Frieda Hull estate – up for bids at Julien’s Auctions this weekend – show a “lighter side” of Marilyn, suggesting that “the tragedy of her story does not mean that she lacked for moments of happiness—or at least moments when she appeared to be happy.”

The Frieda Hull collection ranges from approximately Lots 605-788 of the Julien’s sale, and is well worth a closer look. Time have featured some of the most striking images on offer, and I’ve posted a few more below.

Signed photo of Marilyn in New York, 1955
Signed photo of Marilyn in New York, 1955
Returning from her Jamaican honeymoon with Arthur Miller, 1957
Returning from her Jamaican honeymoon with Arthur Miller, 1957
Marilyn attends a screening of 'The Prince and the Showgirl', 1957
Marilyn attends a screening of ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’, 1957
Leaving her New York apartment in 1959, en route to meet Khrushchev in Hollywood
Leaving her New York apartment in 1959, en route to meet Khrushchev in Hollywood
Attending Josephine Baker's revue in Los Angeles, 1960
Attending Josephine Baker’s revue in Los Angeles, 1960

Frieda Hull also collected original memorabilia, including movie stills, studio portraits and lobby cards. She compiled scrapbooks and home movies, and even owned a scarf of Marilyn’s, and a Gladstone Hotel menu signed by MM and Arthur Miller – not to mention a Monroe Six badge!

This archive is so unique that it could easily fill a book. Although some images have been seen before, many have never been published, and some are extremely rare. Whatever her mood, Marilyn could always spare a smile for her fans. So let’s hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of these lovely pictures.

Marilyn at Julien’s: Style and Beauty

Marilyn in costume for 'The Prince and the Showgirl'
Marilyn in costume for ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’

“Marilyn Monroe famously sang ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,’” Sheila Gibson Stoodley writes for Robb Report, “but collectors of her memorabilia disagree. Seven of the 10 most-expensive Marilyn Monroe items sold at auction are dresses—mainly costumes that the late star wore in her films. The few that she donned outside of the studio earn their high sums thanks to period photographs that prove Monroe wore them.” And over at his MM Collection Blog, Scott Fortner – who helped to catalogue this week’s auction at Julien’s – takes a closer look at the ‘I’m Through With Love‘ dress from Some Like It Hot, and the ‘After You Get What You Want‘ dress from There’s No Business Like Show Business. Both costumes are from the David Gainsborough Roberts collection, and will go under the hammer tomorrow.

4B0C4B67-95B1-4697-9B6F-7F99625E3A20-16590-000008CBD9507BCC_tmpSeveral other items which contributed to Marilyn’s glamorous look are also among the lots. From her modelling days onward, Marilyn often wore her own clothing in photo shoots. These brown leather sandals date back to a 1950 session with photographer Earl Leaf, shot at the Hollywood home of her agent, Johnny Hyde.

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Unlike her cinematic alter-ego Lorelei Lee, Marilyn wasn’t really a material girl. These earrings, worn to the premiere of The Seven Year Itch, were made from simulated diamonds.

Green lace blouse, from 'Bus Stop'
Green lace blouse, from ‘Bus Stop’

Marilyn’s movie costumes were made in duplicates, with her name next to the Fox logo on a sewn-in label. This green lace bodice from Bus Stop was won in a contest by a lucky reader of the British fan magazine, Picture Show.

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These red satin platform shoes – designed by Annello & Davide – were born by Marilyn to the London premiere of Arthur Miller’s controversial play, A View From the Bridge.

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John Moore’s pencil sketches for the form-fitting mermaid gown worn by Marilyn to the premiere of The Prince and the Showgirl are also on offer.

Marilyn’s personal diet plan and skincare regime are available in full.

“A two-page, typed plan titled ‘Calorie Restricted Diet/ 1000 Calories/ 100 Grams Protein’ prepared for Monroe by Dr. Leon Krohn. The pages are undated, but some of the approved foods and meal plans are in line with the notations found in Monroe’s hand in the back of one of her notebooks from 1958. The diet put forth presents sound health advice even by today’s standards, recommending the restriction of sugar, fats and carbohydrates to whole wheat and ‘one small white potato boiled baked or riced’ as a substitution for one slice of bread.

Five sets of instructions, eight pages, from the Erno Laszlo Institute written out for Marilyn Monroe Miller, dated June 5, 6, 11, and 12, 1958, and July 3, 1958, outlining her constantly changing skincare regime in great detail. The instructions not only divide skincare into ‘Morning,’ ‘Evening if dressing,’ and ‘Evening before retiring,’ but also there are instructions on what not to eat: ‘Not one piece of any kind of nuts, olives, chocolate, clams and oysters.’ There are also separate instructions for California and ‘Instructions for Makeup While Making Films.'”

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These white leather shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo are just one of several pairs that she owned. (The spiked heels were 3 inches high, and the size was 7.5B.)

In the spring of 1958, Marilyn made plans to appear at the Cannes Film Festival. Simone Noir sent her an invitation to visit Christian Dior in Paris. Unfortunately, the trip was cancelled, but a separate invoice shows that Marilyn bought a dress and coat by Dior from a Park Avenue boutique.

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That Christmas, Marilyn’s longtime hairdresser, Agnes Flanagan, gave her a bottle of her favourite perfume, Chanel No. 5, purchased from I. Magnin in Beverly Hills.

04CE929F-E2C5-4041-B63B-5942E77CBE29-16590-000008F3381F1DE9_tmpFinally, a costume sketch by Bob Mackie for Something’s Got to Give. Based on a Jean Louis design, the red skirt suit with a swing jacket trimmed in leopard print, and matching hat, was intended as an ‘Outfit Worn on Day Off/Also in Courtroom Sequence.’ However, the ensemble was not worn by Marilyn during wardrobe tests, or any surviving footage from the ill-fated movie.

Marilyn at Julien’s: A Life In Art

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Items from Lee Strasberg’s estate will be auctioned at Julien’s this Friday. They include many of Marilyn’s notes, poems, ink and crayon  drawings and watercolours, previously published in the acclaimed Fragments and the French book, Girl Waiting. Some of the artworks purchased by Marilyn for home display are also up for bids.

Abigail Cain has written an insightful piece about Marilyn’s little-known artistic side for Artsy.net.

“‘Not only was she a voracious reader and a haunting poet, but, as several of these objects prove, Monroe was also deeply invested in both collecting and creating visual art. Among these items—many of which have never before been seen by the public—were the 1961 architectural plans for Monroe’s unrealized Manhattan apartment. In this drawing, a space was marked off for an art studio inside the three-story townhouse, located at 241 East 61st Street.

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In addition, a series of letters from the late 1950s show that Monroe was enrolled in a correspondence art course through the Famous Artists School in Westport, Connecticut. The recovered documents include a roster of instructors, a ‘Rate Yourself Progress Chart,’ and several pages explaining the logistics of the painting class and long-distance critiques.

Also included in the auction is a series of drawings by Monroe, done primarily in Conté crayon. Although these are not dated, Woolley said it’s possible they were completed as part of the correspondence art course.

Lithograph owned by Marilyn
Lithograph owned by Marilyn

Beyond her own sketches, Monroe was also a collector of art. Her tastes were varied—at the beginning of her career, she taped inexpensive reproductions of Albrecht Dürer, Fra Angelico, and Leonardo da Vinci to the walls of her Hollywood apartment. As she grew in both fame and fortune, she began to purchase originals instead.”

Marilyn in Holy Wood: A Graphic Novel

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Holy Wood : Portrait fantasmé de Marilyn Monroe, a new graphic novel, has been published in France. In an interview with Le Dauphine, author Tommy Redolfi reveals that he spent nine years creating this Gothic fairytale set in ‘Holy Wood’, a dark forest populated by circus freaks where a young dreamer called Norma Jeane seeks fame and fortune.

BD9FA6C0-719B-490B-A5EC-0CE82A2D4626-11394-000006B34AFAE240_tmp“I think she adhered to an image proposed to her. She was told: ‘If you’re like that, people will love you.’ So she agreed to be that person to be loved. She lacked love and recognition. That’s what she was looking for and that’s what we gave him, but not necessarily for the best reasons. She a little pact with the devil, although in this case, the devil is not really bad. And besides it is this ambiguity which I like. There are not really nice, not really bad … In the end, maybe it was just the wrong choice …”

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