Marilyn and the Women Artists of 1950s New York

In 2018, the feminist art historian Griselda Pollock gave a lecture on Marilyn at the Caixi Forum in Madrid. Despite the acres of coverage on Monroe’s life, she said, “there is very little analysis of her work. How did a white woman, uneducated and abused, become a star like one she was? Why was Andy Warhol crying at her death? Why did Elton John identify with her? Why did Madonna forge her image in Monroe’s likeness?”

In her latest book, Killing Men & Dying Women: Imagining Cultural Difference in 1950s New York Painting, Marilyn is a secondary subject. Lee Krasner, the book’s primary subject, was the wife of abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock, and an important artist in her own right. Even before his untimely death in 1956, Krasner was overshadowed by her famous husband.

“So, here is the question at the heart of this book,” Griselda Pollock writes. “What was it to be an artist and a woman – such as the brilliant painter Lee Krasner – if, in the chiasmic space of avant-garde art and popular US-American culture, to be the artist was iconically Jackson Pollock and to be a woman was iconically Marilyn Monroe?”

Exploring the hidden links between these very different women, Griselda Pollock touches on fellow abstract expressionist William de Kooning’s 1954 painting of Marilyn, The Seven Year Itch, and much more. You can read my review in full here.