A new, limited edition book featuring photographs by Bert Stern and text by the late Norman Mailer will be published by Taschen in August. It is 278 pp long; 36.5 x 44 cm; hardcover, boxed with print. All 1712 copies are signed by Stern himself, and the price – wait for it – is a jaw-dropping £450.00.
Diana Vreeland, the formidable editor of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, included this photo of Marilyn (taken by Cecil Beaton in 1956) in her 1980 book, Allure.
Vreeland worked with Jackie Kennedy on the project, as William Kuhn recounts in Reading Jackie, a new study of the one-time First Lady’s career in publishing.
“Marilyn Monroe had a brief affair with JFK, and by 1980, when Vreeland’s Allure was published at Jackie’s behest by Doubleday, this was well-known…Monroe had committed suicide during the very week that Vreeland was taking over the editorial position at Vogue. She began work just as the outgoing editor was putting together the finishing touches on an issue which, by chance, included an article with a tribute to Monroe and several photographs. Vreeland’s colleague wanted one of the photos taken out. It was too ‘triste’ in light of what Monroe had just done. Vreeland replied, ‘You can’t leave that out! You cannot! It’s got all the poignancy and the poetry and the pathos of the woman in it!’ That was in 1962. In the late 1970s, Vreeland explained what she loved about this photo … ‘Marilyn Monroe! She was a geisha. She was born to give pleasure, spent her life giving it – and knew no other way’…What did Jackie say to Vreeland about the Monroe photograph? Probably nothing, but the fact that she silently allowed Vreeland to include it shows Jackie content to acknowledge Monroe’s ur– sexiness, a quality that Jackie did not think she shared with the screen icon.
It seems as if Jackie was able to separate her editorial self from the woman whose husband had a public fling with Monroe. She was thrilled, about the same time she was working with Vreeland on Allure, when a proposal came from Doubleday that promised pictures from Bert Stern‘s last photographic session with the actress. ‘Marilyn Monroe!!!’ Jackie wrote in a memo to her colleague Ray Roberts. ‘Are you excited?’ … Vreeland’s treatment of Monroe was probably like this for Jackie too: a publishing opportunity rather than a moment to reflect on a personal injury. In any case, if injury there had been, she was able to rise above it.”
Later in the book, Kuhn reports an interview with biographer David Stenn, who wrote about two Hollywood sex symbols pre-dating MM – Clara Bow and Jean Harlow – with Jackie’s support:
“Stenn also recalled a conversation he had with Jackie about Marilyn Monroe, a topic that he had avoided touching upon. That’s why he was surprised when she brought it up. Jackie didn’t mention Monroe in the context of JFK but rather as part of a continuum with Jean Harlow: both of them were blondes who made their sexual appeal the center of their screen personalities. As with Vreeland, Jackie was willing to discuss Monroe with Stenn in a completely dispassionate, even admiring way.”
Over at The Mmm Blog, Melinda Mason recounts her meeting with photographer Bert Stern – now 82 – at his ‘Jewels’ exhibition in Toronto’s Izzy Gallery.
“Marilyn fans the world over have fawned over Stern’s photographs that he took in July 1962 shortly before her death. Regardless of your view on whether he should have published photos that Marilyn herself had X’d out there is no denying his photographs are truly legendary. I am personally a big fan of this time period and Marilyn style and The Complete Last Sitting is one of my favourite books.”
Gallery owner Izzy Sulemanji was interviewed in Canada’s National Post:
“‘This is the top of the mountain to get Bert,’ Sulejmani says. ‘The biggest thing is that he’s coming, because if it’s not New York or a big museum, he doesn’t go for his openings.’
Now in his eighties, Stern rarely accepts interviews and makes few public appearances. But there was something about the friendly gallery owner that he liked. Sulejmani says that after remaining largely silent during a New York City business lunch two months ago, the photographer said at the very end, ‘You’re OK, Izzy. I like you. I’ll see you in Toronto.’ After signing the contract, Stern left.”
Photographs of Marilyn taken by Bert Stern in 1962 are included in a new exhibition, ‘Jewels’, running from June 16 – July 9 at the Izzy Gallery, Toronto. Stern’s portraits of Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Madonna and Kate Moss are also featured.
‘Beauty Culture’, a new exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, includes a sub-section devoted to Marilyn Monroe and her many imitators.
Photographers Bert Stern, Bob Willoughby, and Joe Shere, who all worked with Marilyn, are listed among the contributors.
“Marilyn Monroe has been awarded her own subtopic — ‘The Marilyn Syndrome’ — in which images of Kate Moss, Lindsey Lohan and Anna Nicole Smith, all channeling Monroe, are displayed with several pictures of the actress. A quote from Gloria Steinem seems to sum up the mystique and status of the late movie star: ‘The woman who died too soon became the woman who would not die.'”
An enlarged Fuji Crystal Archive print contact sheet taken from Bert Stern’s ‘Last Sitting’ with Marilyn in 1962 (printed 1979, recently valued at $14,000 – $18,000), features in the Important Photo Books and Photographs auction at Swann Galleries, NYC, on May 19.
This framed collage – including a badge from Norman Mailer‘s 1969 NYC mayoral bid, and a photo by Bert Stern, used in Mailer’s controversial book, Marilyn(1973) – is one of the author’s personal items being auctioned this spring, along with Mailer’s Brooklyn Heights apartment, following his death in 2007.
This new book by William Kuhn, dubbed an ‘autobiography in books’, takes a look at Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s lifelong love of literature and her later career as an editor.
“More astonishing is Jackie’s work on the 1980 Diana Vreeland book, Allure, which contains photos and text about the allure of Marilyn Monroe, who was linked to Jackie’s first husband when he was president, and Maria Callas, who was linked to Jackie’s second husband, before and after their marriage.
Jackie also responded favorably to a proposal that Doubleday publish a book of Bert Stern’s last photographs of Monroe before her death. Jackie wrote a note to a colleague: ‘Marilyn Monroe!!! Are you excited?’ Kuhn writes that Jackie the editor probably saw the use of material about her one-time rival as ‘a publishing opportunity rather than a moment to reflect on a personal injury. In any case, if injury there had been, she was able to rise above it.’”
In fact, Jackie may never have resented Marilyn as many have assumed. She probably understood Monroe’s struggle with fame and love only too well, and was privately said to be upset by her death. Whatever the extent of Marilyn’s relationship with John F. Kennedy, it appears that Jackie did not bear a grudge.
Original photographs from Bert Stern’s ‘Last Sitting’ of 1962 are on display at the Schloss Britz in Berlin until January 30, supplemented with items belonging to Monroe collector Peter Schnug and an installation, ‘Marilyn’s Interiors’, by artist Nicole Cohen.