Will Marilyn Be the End of May?

On the eve of the UK general election, a stencil painting of Prime Minister Theresa May wearing her favourite leopard-skin stilettos, in a recreation of Marilyn’s ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch (originally photographed by Sam Shaw) signed by street artist ‘Loretto’, has appeared in London’s West End, reports Fitzrovia News.

The merging of Marilyn, an icon of youth and beauty,  with a right-wing politician is either comical or grotesque, depending on your perspective. However, comparisons of this kind are nothing new, especially in the art world. Photographer Philippe Halsman started the trend with ‘Marilyn Mao‘, blending his own 1952 portrait of MM – her first Life magazine cover – with the head and shoulders  of the Chinese premier, Mao Tse-tung.

Perhaps it’s the rumoured affair with President Kennedy that triggered this strange phenomenon, or just that Marilyn’s own cultural reach rivals that of our world leaders. For me, these images evoke the contrast between her radiant humanity, and the dangerous aura of those who wield power.

Marilyn Jumps for Magnum

Philippe Halsman’s joyous 1959 portrait of Marilyn – part of his ‘Jump’ series – is one of seventy images chosen to represent Magnum Photos on its 70th anniversary in an exhibition in the  pedestrian tunnel at King’s Cross in London for a month from May 15, reports The Guardian.

Halsman’s Marilyn in Barcelona

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Spanish fans may be interested to know that the touring exhibit, Philippe Halsman: Astonish Me! is now on display at the CaixaForum Barcelona until November 6, as Samuel Spencer reports for BlouArtInfo. (I have corrected some minor errors in the extract below.)

“Featuring 300 photographs and documents from the photographer’s extensive career, Astonish Me! is the first Spanish retrospective of the American photographer [born and raised in Austria] who, among other achievements, undertook 110 covers for LIFE magazine. Halsman also popularized the portrait concept of people jumping — at the time a revolutionary idea that has since become a photographic cliché, unavoidable at any graduation ceremony.

Termed ‘jumpology’ by Halsman, jumping was used by him as a psychological tool. He believed that it showed people without inhibitions; as he once said, when someone jumps, “the mask falls.” As such, Halsman saw it as a crucial tool for photographing celebrities, allowing him to cut through the façade of their media image.

Among the jumpologists Halsman shows in the exhibition are Marilyn Monroe, who he tried to convince for three years to jump for a shoot before she finally agreed. Monroe jumped 200 times for the resulting image, which became iconic when it appeared on the LIFE cover in 1957 [actually, it was in 1959.]

Halsman’s Marilyn at the Smithsonian

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Philippe Halsman’s most iconic photo of Marilyn – chosen for her first Life magazine cover in 1952 – has won a Smithsonian Magazine readers’ poll, and will be displayed in the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, from January-March 2016.

“A portrait of Marilyn Monroe will be installed in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s ‘Recognize’ space, Jan. 22, 2016. The museum’s historians and curators selected three actresses’ portraits for voters to choose from—Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe and Mae West—three fan favorites who, despite long acting careers, never received Oscar nominations.

Thousands of votes were cast on Smithsonianmag.com, and Monroe’s portrait received the most votes. Philippe Halsman’s photograph of her will be on view on the ‘Recognize’ wall, near the north entrance of the museum, through March 6, 2016.

Last year, the Portrait Gallery created ‘Recognize’ as an opportunity for people to select what they would like to see on display. Twice a year, the museum presents three portraits, and the public votes for their favorite. In the last round of ‘Recognize,’ voters elected to display a portrait of the baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente by Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris.”

Halsman Retrospective in Paris

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Marilyn at home by Philippe Halsman (1952)

Philippe Halsman: Astonish Me!, a new retrospective, has opened at the Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris, and will be on display until January 24, 2016, reports Time.com.

“All in all this retrospective showcases some 300 exclusive images and original documents (contact sheets and prints, preliminary proofs, original photo-montages and mock-ups) that shed a unique new light on the work and approach of an exceptional and atypical photographer.”

Halsman’s ‘Jump’ Book Reissued

halsman jump2Photographer Philippe Halsman’s Jump Book, first published in 1959, is being reissued, reports the Daily Mail. Marilyn’s ‘jump’ session is featured among many others, and a photo of her and Halsman jumping together graced the cover of a previous reissue in 1986.

You can order the new edition now, via The Book Depository.

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1986 edition

Philippe Halsman: ‘Astonish me!’

Marilyn graces the cover of Philippe Halsman: Astonish Me!, a new, 320pp book about the Latvian-born photographer, accompanying an exhibition at the Museé de l’Elyseé at Lausanne in Switzerland, will be published this month in the UK, with the US edition following in February.

“Salvador Dali’s flamboyant moustache, Richard Nixon jumping in the West Wing, Grace Kelly’s amazing profile—these are just a few of the images that achieved iconic status and helped make photographer Philippe Halsman an icon in his own right. Comprising hundreds of photographs and insightful accompanying texts, this volume explores Halsman’s oeuvre in a variety of aspects. It examines his early career exhibiting works at the avant-garde La Pleiade Gallery in Paris; his experiments with portraiture, particularly the series of stunning images of Marilyn Monroe and his more than 100 covers for Life magazine; his pictures of the contemporary art scene that include famous dancers, movie stars, stage actors, and musicians and the birth of his ‘jumpology’ concept; and his unique, 30-year collaboration with Salvador Dali, including a book devoted entirely to the artist’s moustache. Anyone interested in portraiture, celebrity, or performance will marvel at the breadth and magnificence of Halsman’s work, which is definitively presented in this beautiful volume.”