The Metamorphosis of Norma Jean Mortenson

Maker and role
Artist: Robert Indiana, American, 1928-2018

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Oil on canvas
102 x 102in (259.1 x 259.1cm)
Credit line
Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin
Accession number
Object type
Further information
This painting was first exhibited in 1967 at Sidney Janis Gallery in New York, in the exhibition, Homage to Marilyn Monroe. A tribute to the pop culture icon and symbol of the struggle for the American Dream, Indiana's work alludes to Monroe's untimely death just five years prior. According to the artist, the letters of the actress's two names are "encircled by the telephone dial-like ring of her destiny and death (it was this instrument she was clutching)" - a reference to how Monroe's body was found in her Los Angeles home. The sensuous image derives from Tom Kelley's 1949 photograph that was chosen for the first issue of Playboy in December 1953. It also appeared in the famous calendar of nudes, "Golden Dreams," which the artist picked up in a Greenwich Village shop. For his painting, Indiana altered the photograph's original red velvet background, posing Marilyn "against the golden star of her dreams."
Subject period


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