Shot Marilyns: The Iconic Portraits of Marilyn Monroe

Publicity portrait of Marilyn Monroe for the 1953 film Niagara. Shot Marilyns is a series of silkscreen paintings produced in 1964 by Andy Warhol, each canvas measuring 40 inches square, and each a portrait of...

Shot Marilyns Publicity portrait of Marilyn Monroe for the 1953 film Niagara.

Shot Marilyns is a series of silkscreen paintings produced in 1964 by Andy Warhol, each canvas measuring 40 inches square, and each a portrait of Marilyn Monroe.

Discovering the History

Pop artist Andy Warhol had a profound fascination with Hollywood and fame. Marilyn Monroe, the legendary silver screen beauty, is widely considered to be the epitome of Hollywood glamour. After her untimely death at the age of 36 in August 1962, Warhol found inspiration in immortalizing her through his artwork. He began experimenting with silkscreens, taking Marilyn's beautiful face as his subject. In 1964, Warhol created portraits of Monroe based on a publicity photo from her 1953 film Niagara. He painted five Marilyn silkscreen portraits, each with a different colored background: red, orange, light blue, sage blue, and turquoise. These iconic portraits were stored at The Factory, Warhol's studio in Manhattan.

The Infamous Shooting

A fascinating incident surrounded the Shot Marilyns series. Dorothy Podber, a performance artist and friend of Factory photographer Billy Name, visited the studio and noticed the completed paintings stacked against one another. She asked Warhol if she could photograph the artworks, and he agreed without suspecting her real intention. To everyone's surprise, Podber took out a small revolver from her purse and fired a shot into the stack of four paintings, creating what is now famously known as "The Shot Marilyns." The fifth painting with the turquoise background was not part of the stack.

In the documentary How to Draw a Bunny, Billy Name described this event as a "performance piece" by Podber. After the shooting, Warhol reportedly asked Name to request that Podber refrain from doing such actions in the future. As a consequence, Podber was permanently banned from The Factory.

Acquisitions and Record-breaking Prices

The Shot Marilyns paintings have become highly valuable pieces of art. Here are some notable acquisitions:

  • Blue Shot Marilyn was purchased by Peter Brant for $5,000 in 1967.
  • Shot Red Marilyn was sold to Masao Wanibuchi for $4.1 million at Christie's in 1989. Later, he sold it to Philip Niarchos for $3.6 million in 1994.
  • Orange Marilyn was acquired by Si Newhouse for $17.3 million in 1998. After Newhouse's death, Kenneth C. Griffin purchased it for a reported sum of around $200 million in 2017.
  • Turquoise Marilyn was bought by Steve Cohen for an estimated $80 million in 2007.
  • Shot Sage Blue Marilyn was auctioned by Christie's in New York City on May 9, 2022, and sold for a staggering $195 million to the Foundation of Thomas and Doris Ammann. This sale set a new record for the highest price paid at auction for a work by an American artist and became the most expensive 20th-century artwork sold at a public auction. Larry Gagosian, an acclaimed American art dealer, made the purchase.

In Conclusion

The Shot Marilyns series by Andy Warhol has secured its place as an iconic representation of Marilyn Monroe and a testament to Warhol's artistry. These silkscreen portraits captured the essence of Hollywood and the allure of fame. Despite the infamous incident that shot them into notoriety, the paintings have become highly sought after, fetching record-breaking prices at auctions. The Shot Marilyns continue to inspire and captivate art enthusiasts around the world.

See also

  • Gold Marilyn Monroe, 1962
  • Marilyn Diptych, 1962
  • List of most expensive paintings


  • Livingstone, Marco (ed.), Pop Art: An International Perspective, The Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1991, ISBN 0-8478-1475-0
  • Stokstad, Marilyn, Art History, 1995, Prentice Hall, Inc., and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, ISBN 0-8109-1960-5
  • Vogel, Carol (1998). The New York Times: INSIDE ART; Perhaps Shot, Perhaps Not . Retrieved January 4, 2008.
  • Warhol, Andy and Pat Hackett, Popism: The Warhol Sixties, Harcourt Books, 1980, ISBN 0-15-672960-1
  • Watson, Steven, Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties, Pantheon Books, 2003.