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Compare and Contrast of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe Paintings

Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa is one of the most well-known paintings in the world. Show anyone from a 60 year old man to a 10 year old girl a picture of the painting and, most likely, they will be able to name the painting as well as the painter. While some say that DaVinci’s painting is the most famous of all created, many of Andy Warhol’s paintings are also easily recognizable. Almost everyone has seen the Campbell’s Soup Can series Warhol painted or his famous Triple Elvis print. This paper will be focusing on his Marilyn Monroe series, which I will be comparing and contrasting to the Mona Lisa. There are many obvious differences between the two paintings, such as the time period, color scheme, background and subject matter. My goal is to also point out some similarities such as their use of line, recreations, fame, and prominence in society.

One of the major contrasts between the two works is the history behind the paintings. Andy Warhol was said to be fascinated with the actress Marilyn Monroe’s supposed suicide in August of 1962. Warhol proved the Proverb, “Good men must die, but death cannot kill their names” to be true, making his Marilyn Monroe series one of his most famous works. Warhol bought a publicity still of Marilyn’s 1953 movie Niagara, cropped it, enlarged the face, and reproduced it on eight different canvases. Each painting was given a different color scheme. These paintings were the first solo exhibition for Warhol. The most famous of the series, Lemon Marilyn, was bought and kept in a private collection until 2007.

While the subject of Warhol’s painting is very well known and easily recognized, the subject of Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa was most likely commoner, and there are many different theories of who the woman could be. Some say the woman is DaVinci himself, in woman form. Others say it could be Lisa Gherardini; the wife of a wealthy businessman in Florence, Italy named Francesco Del Giocondo. DaVinci was commissioned to paint the Mona Lisa in 1503, and worked on it for four years before it was finished. DaVinci kept his painting for quite a while before he sold it to the King of France, King Francois, in 1516. (“Mona Lisa." Lairweb.com. N.p., n.d. Web.) After the French Revolution, the painting was moved to the Louvre, where it remains today.

The history behind the paintings also point out several more differences. There is only one Mona Lisa, while Warhol created many Marilyn paintings. The time period when the two painters lived was decades apart. DaVinci was alive from 1452-1519, while Warhol was born in 1928 and died in 1987. While Warhol was strictly an artist, DaVinci spent time as a mathematician, engineer, writer, and geologist as well.

The two men’s styles of painting were very different as well. DaVinci painted in the style of chiaroscuro, the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, and sfumato. Sfumato is created by painting a color that turns slowly from light to dark tones to give off a kind of misty glow or smoky mystery. Andy Warhol was a major part of the Pop art movement. Jennifer Rosenberg of About.com quoted pop art as being, “a new style of art that began in England in the mid-1950s and consisted of realistic renditions of popular, and everyday items.” (Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Andy Warhol." About.com 20th Century History. About.com, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.) Warhol used silk-screening to create Marilyn Monroe. Warhol is quoted as saying, “In August 62 I started doing silkscreens. I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly line effect…you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue… I was thrilled with it. When Marilyn Monroe happened to die that month, I got the idea to make screens of her beautiful face the first Marilyns.” ("Andy Warhol's Marilyn Prints."...
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