Bare-Faced Beauty

8th December 2019

Unusually natural photographs from the last ever photoshoot of screen icon Marilyn Monroe have emerged at Woolley and Wallis.

Two of the images were taken by photographer George Barris in 1962, just weeks before Monroe’s untimely death at the age of 36, and depict the Hollywood star frolicking on a beach in Santa Monica with a large green towel. Barris took Monroe’s death hard and refused to publish the photos for a full quarter century, when he relented and published a limited edition of 99 prints. Some of the original photographs were sold at auction in London in 2015, just a year before the photographer’s own death.

From the same collection being sold in Salisbury are a group of photographs by Milton Greene, whose work with Marilyn Monroe changed the course of his career. Greene first worked with her in 1953 and the pair went on to form Marilyn Monroe Productions in an attempt to help the actress control her own career away from Hollywood producers. Three of the shots are from the famous ‘Black Sitting’ from 1956, which depict Monroe in a series of raunchy poses, wearing fishnet stockings and a black bowler hat. However, a fourth far rarer shot by Greene shows an unusually bare-faced Monroe playing in a swimming pool. The photo, from 1955, was taken in Connecticut at the home of musical theatre composer Richard Rodgers. Greene and Monroe had gone there one summer’s day with Gene Kelly in order to cool off in the Rodgers’ swimming pool. The resulting photos show a young freckle-faced Monroe at odds with the usually polished and heavily made-up public face she preferred to put forward.

The photos are being included in three lots in the Modern British and 20th Century Art sale at Woolley and Wallis on 11th December, where they are expected to make up to £1,200.

“Almost 60 years after her death, the name of Marilyn Monroe remains synonymous with the glamour of Hollywood in the 1950s,” said Picture specialist, Victor Fauvelle. “She was a photographer’s dream – beautiful, creative and willing to take risks to help them get a great shot. There are countless images of Marilyn out there, but some of these are rare and weren’t publicly published until some years after her death. They are important collector’s items for anyone interested not only in Marilyn herself but also in film and photography.”

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