Gods and Monsters A History of “Celebrity Portraits”

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Early Twentieth Century Celebrity Portraits

Celebrity Portraits of celebrities began to take inspiration from avant-garde art movements at the beginning of the 20th century. This beautifully shot photograph of Betty Stockfield, British actress, was taken by Alexander Stewart (who went by the pseudonym Sasha). The mask in the background mirrors that of the sitter and shows the connection between photography and Cubism Surrealism Dadaism.

Warhol began to make celebrity portraits in the 1960s while he was living and working in New York. Warhol used tabloid photos or publicity shots to create his screen-prints. He produced a remarkable number of celebrity portraits including Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, Marylin Monroe, and Elvis Presley. Warhol immediately reproduced the portrait of the actress, which was based on Gene Kornman’s 1953 photograph for the promotion and promotion of Niagara. Marilyn Diptych 1962, which consists of two canvases that reproduce Monroe’s portrait in grid-like patterns, is undoubtedly Warhol’s most famous and beloved work. One side is bright and lively, while the other is monochrome, gloomy, capturing both her sparkling public fa├žade and her dark, troubled private life.

Although Warhol’s subject matter expanded over the years, his obsession for fame and celebrity remained constant as he produced celebrity portraits in his later years of his career.

Who Revolutionized the social portrait and made it a legitimate art form in the late sixties and early seventies. Warhol began to accept commissions and was not afraid to take them. Ethel Scull, a well-known collector and enthusiast of Pop Art and modern art, was his first portrait for society. Warhol’s major exhibition Portraits of the 70s, which opened at the Whitney Museum in November 1979, allowed his private portrait-painting company to thrive.

Warhol painted fifty portraits per year in the early 1980s, charging $25,000 for each commission and $40,000 for two-panel portraits. This lucrative business allowed Warhol to finance his ambitious projects and support The Factory. These portraits of society were essentially a business venture. Warhol used this to examine himself as a machine and profit from his fascination with fame. His famous motto, “In the future everyone will be known for 15 minutes.”

Warhol used a Polaroid camera for his portraits. He called it his ‘pencil & paper’. After the Polaroids were blown up, they would be converted into negatives. Warhol would trace each sitter’s features onto a canvas to create his silkscreen-prints. Warhol believed photography had the ability to form and reaffirm cultural obsessions. He would use them as a filter to communicate with society.