The Hollywood Icon – Marilyn Monroe

The much anticipated psychological drama ‘Blonde’ premiered this month. The film, which marks sixty years since Monroe’s tragic death meticulously recreates some of her most famous photographic sessions, auditions and starring roles.

We take a closer look at some of our favourite prints and posters which, like the film, immortalise her timeless essence and glamour.

Marilyn Monroe playing a ukulele in Some Like it Hot

As a Hollywood and pop culture icon, transcending generations and history, Marilyn Monroe remains one of the most recognisable women of the twentieth century.

Born Norma Jean Mortenson, she started her career as a model shortly after the Second World War before signing a contract with 20th Century Fox in 1946.

She quickly became one of Hollywood’s most celebrated stars, winning multiple awards for acting and becoming an emblem of sexual liberation. 

The infamous publicity of Marilyn Monroe in Billy Wilder's 1955 film ‘The Seven Year Itch’ Hollywood Photo Archive

Iconic moments

One of Monroe’s most iconic publicity shots occurred in 1953 when she stood above a subway grate in the romantic comedy ‘The Seven Year Itch’. This still (above) captures Monroe holding her ivory cocktail dress as a gush of air blows from beneath. 

Instead of rushing to cover her legs, the actress flirtatiously turned and asked her co-star Tom Ewell ‘Ooh, do you feel the breeze from the subway?’. That moment has since became one of the most memorable scenes in film history. 

Publicity still of Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’

In 1953 Monroe starred in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ as Lorelei Lee, a showgirl who sets herself the task of marrying a wealthy man for financial comfort. Her debut as the platinum blonde gold-digger is considered legendary by critics.

Whilst her performance of songs such as ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ stole the show, her outfits were equally attention-grabbing. One of her most famous looks was a sumptuous gold dress designed by William Travilla, which incorporated a ravaging neckline and accentuated waist. The gown was deemed inappropriate by the production team so it was only made visible for a few moments, making this publicity shot (above) even more remarkable. 

Advertisement poster of Marilyn Monroe as Chérie in Joshua Logan’s 1956 film ‘Bus Stop’

Starring roles

Directed by Joshua Logan, ‘Bus Stop’ marked a turning point in Monroe’s career. Under a new contract, she set out to reinvent herself as a respected actress rather than a simplified sex symbol.

The American romantic comedy followed a loud-mouth cowboy (played by Don Murray) winning a rodeo and marrying an Arizonian woman (played by Monroe). Keen to assert herself as a serious actress, Monroe adopted a convincing Ozark accent for her role and chose costumes and makeup that lacked the glamour of her earlier films.

This advertisement poster (above), designed by British illustrator Tom Chantrell, depicts Monroe with her lips puckered and eyes glistening.

Poster designed by Tom Chantrell for the 1960 film ‘Some Like it Hot’
Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon playing the saxophone and violin in ‘Some Like it Hot’

In 1960 Monroe was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Actress in ‘Some Like it Hot’. The black and white romantic comedy directed by Billy Wilder achieved great commercial success, despite being produced without approval from Motion Pictures due to the fact it explored ideas of homosexuality, which was illegal in America until 1962. 

This advertisement poster (above) was illustrated by Macario Gómez Quibus, a Spanish artist responsible for creating artwork for some of Hollywood’s best-known films of the twentieth century. The design features Monroe playfully held up by her two co-stars, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, reflecting the tongue-in-cheek humour of the classic comedy.

Marilyn Monroe sat on a bench at her home in Palm Springs
Marilyn Monroe sat at home in Palm Springs

Private life

Monroe’s private life has always been a source of fascination. Even during her lifetime, the media were obsessed with her romantic entanglements and fragile health.

Taking a new stance, Andrew Dominik’s new film ‘Blonde’ blurs the lines between fact and fiction to explore the widening split between Monroe’s public and private self.

These portrait publicity stills (below) were taken at Monroe’s home in Palm Springs. According to American photojournalist Eve Arnold, the actress enjoyed looser, more intimate photographs, rather than the posed, Hollywood studio portraits most of America was so accustomed to seeing her in.

Marilyn Monroe with Arthur Miller in Englefield Green, Surrey.

This black and white portrait features Monroe with her third husband, the playwright Arthur Miller. The photo was taken by leading American photographer Ken Heyman and features Monroe looking in awe at her husband in the grounds of a luxury home in Englefield Green, Surrey. Monroe and Miller rented the home whilst she filmed ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’.

When the couple first became acquainted in 1950, they described experiencing an immediate spark. Remembering the day they first met and shook hands, Miller described how ‘the shock of her body’s motion sped through me’.

Related stories

spotlight We catch up with Hastings-based abstract landscape painter, Louise Body

Join us as we catch up with Louise Body to discuss her upcoming limited editions with K&M, lunchtime sea swims and her career highlights to date.

spotlight Meet painter and printmaker David Price

The Margate-based artist talks to curator Becca Pelly-Fry about his fascination with brash, colourful ‘non-art’, and the edition he’s made for our Curated Editions collection, New Mythologies.

spotlight Ele Pack’s new beginnings and emotion-filled abstracts

Upon the release of our latest collection with artist Ele pack, we caught up with her to discuss her recent relocation to Derbyshire, and the new direction of her work.

spotlight David Hockney’s collectible exhibition posters

Discover the collectible exhibition posters Hockney designed for Tate, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Opera and more.

spotlight Meet London-based design studio Oscar Francis

Join us as we talk to Sarah Evans, the architect turned artist behind London-based design studio Oscar Francis about her work, inspirations and her experience of life as an artist during lockdown.

spotlight Brighton-based mixed-media artist VeeBee’s technicolour works

Learn more about her unusual nocturnal art practice, her beloved cat ‘NooNoo’, and the vibrant portraits she creates of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and more.

spotlight Rosco Brittin’s impossibly intricate floral collages

Based in London, quirky collage artist Rosco Brittin tells us about his animal muses and an intriguing 'spirit genie' that offers him creative fuel...

spotlight Jean-Michel Basquiat’s influential black idols

We explore the ways Basquiat told a story of black struggle through his idols, including jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, legendary bebop saxophonist Charlie Parker, and boxers Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali.

spotlight Curated Editions: Meet Candida Powell-Williams

Playful, colourful, and joyous to behold, mixed media artist Candida Powell-Williams’ work explores representations of overlooked historical women.

spotlight Must-see autumn exhibitions

Discover our top picks, brought to you by many of our long-standing museum and art gallery partners including V&A, Charleston Trust, and Tate.

spotlight Meet London painter and collage artist Andy Barker

As Howard Hodgkin’s studio assistant for over 22 years, Andy Barker accompanied him on several trips to his beloved India. Find out more about his new print inspired by a tree he spotted from Hodgkin’s balcony.

spotlight Curated Editions: Meet Emma Cousin

London-based painter Emma Cousin uses the figure as a mechanism to explore phenomenological experiences.

spotlight Paul Klee, Louis Moilliet, and Auguste Macke’s trip to Tunisia

Though they didn’t know it at the time, when three Swiss-German artists travelled around Tunisia for two weeks in 1914, they changed the course of twentieth-century art.

spotlight Meet London-based collage artist Scarlett Bowman

Scraps of fabric found at markets, toxic colours, and traffic cones – these are just some of the things that influence London-based collage artist Scarlett Bowman.

spotlight Rare Film Posters: Hollywood giants and iconic actors

Join us as we take a closer look at some of the world’s best-loved blockbusters that feature in our Rare Film Poster archive.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Be the first to hear about our new collections, limited edition launches, and enjoy artist interviews.

By subscribing you agree to our privacy policy.

Contact us: customer care
Email us
01273 511 942
Mon-Thurs, 9 am - 5 pm Fri 9 am - 2 pm

All art prints and images on this website are copyright protected and belong to their respective owners. All rights reserved.