Staley-Wise is presenting this exhibition of black and white and color photographs of Marilyn Monroe in conjunction with the PBS American Masters documentary on Marilyn Monroe. Andre de Dienes, Milton Greene, Philippe Halsman, Cecil Beaton, Elliot Erwitt, and Sam Shaw are among the many photographers represented.
Marilyn Monroe died in 1962 at the age of thirty-six. In the intervening years her considerable fame has taken on mythic proportions. This myth has been fed by innumerable books and articles, both serious and sensational, but most of all it has been photographs which have fanned the flame of her celebrity.
According to legend, Marilyn was discovered by a photographer during the war while working in a defense factory. This led to work as a pin-up, mainly posing on beaches for men’s magazines until she ultimately broke into the movies. Marilyn and photographers had a mutual affinity. She loved to pose and throughout her career these photographs have charted the stages of her life; from an imperfectly pretty, sunny teen-age California girl to the ever blonder, ever more glamorous and refined star. Photographers became her friends and confidants and in the case of Milton Greene, her guru and career advisor. She gave her time generously, perhaps on some level knowing this was the true route to stardom, following the example of Garbo and Dietrich, whose photographs by Hurrell, Bull and others synthesized their allure and popularized their image.
The photographs of Marilyn Monroe turned her into the universal icon she has become, and the desire to see more imagery seems unstoppable. From Laff to Vogue, and from unknown press photographers to the acknowledged geniuses of the profession, each has captured an aspect of Marilyn, and this work has gone to the heart of a vast public.