Emily Park pays a visit to Newcastle's Hatton Gallery, where past photographs and magazine covers of the iconic Monroe are on display
Norma Jeane Mortenson may not be a household name but her alias, Marilyn Monroe, certainly is and has been for decades.
She was an actress, sex symbol and is still, to this day, the poster girl for old school Hollywood glamour. Her influence is still evident in the outfits, choices and manners of today’s stars and will likely have an impact on generations to come.
And yet the details of her transition from little-known girl-next-door to one of the most famous actresses in the world is not as widely known despite it, perhaps, being the most interesting periods of her life.
Much like the celebrities of today, she was never too far from a camera lens and an exhibition, one of which will be housed at Newcastle University’s Hatton Gallery until May 17, 2014.
The exhibition allows those interested to chart Monroe’s rise through a range of photographs and magazine covers from 1947 to 1962.
Organised by the National Portrait Gallery in London, Marilyn Monroe: A British Love Affair includes a range of well-known images, such as those by Antony Beauchamp of Monroe in a yellow bikini.
There are photographs that shine somewhat of a light on her private life which, although similar to those of current celebrities that we often see in the tabloids, hold a fascinating charm.
Images of her with her husband, Arthur Miller, as well as others that highlight both the various personalities and British photographers that she worked with during her career, give a sense of the woman she was, prior to her death at the age of 36 in 1962.
The exhibition is a must-see for anyone even vaguely interested in celebrity, the arts or Monroe herself. It depicts not only a phase of her life, but also a particular period of time which is wonderful to see.
You can tell, from looking at the images that it was a time during which having a spellbinding personality ranked highly on the list of celebrity requirements. This is something that perhaps is not as true today, making the collection of photographs particularly refreshing.
It is little wonder that the Marilyn exhibition, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery and currently showing at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle has been a success. The doe-eyed Hollywood starlet has captured the imagination of many generations during her lifetime and long after her untimely death.
The collection at the Hatton is centred on Marilyn’s rise to stardom using photographs taken by British photographers in the US such as Antony Beauchamp and Cecil Beaton and the time she spent on her first and only visit to the UK beginning in the summer of 1956.
Prior to her visit to the UK, during which she filmed the motion picture The Sleeping Princelater to be released as The Prince and the Showgirl, many British newspapers going as far back as 1952 had been extremely critical of Marilyn. The British media portrayed her for the most part as little more than talentless and theatrical. However, in 1956 her arrival was met with frenzied excitement and a hoard of press all clamouring to see her as she arrived at the Savoy in London, with her co-star Sir Lawrence Olivier and third husband, Pulitzer Prize winning play-write Arthur Miller.
Stripping down the glitzy Hollywood façade, the collection at the Hatton shows how the British perceived the infamous blonde bombshell throughout her career and during her visit. Whilst the collection is modest, its intimacy creates a very honest experience of the icon as seen through the lens of the British public.
The doe-eyed Hollywood starlet has captured the imagination of many generations during her lifetime and long after her untimely death
Marilyn resided for the majority of her time in the UK at Parkside House, home to the 11th Earl Drogheda and his wife in Surrey. Throughout her stay, she and her then husband Arthur Miller were often hosted by friends, peers and aristocracy.
Photographs in the collection show an evening at the film premier of The Battle on the River Plate where Marilyn met HRH Queen Elizabeth II who was also an attending guest at the event. The exhibition also has a wonderful photograph of Marilyn meeting famed wartime poet Dame Edith Sitwell at the Sesame Club in London. The unlikely pair were previously acquainted and the photograph shows the more intellectual side of Monroe entirely at ease with Sitwell and holding herself with great poise and elegance.
Marilyn returned to America on the 20th of November 1956 never to come back, tragically passing away six years later.
Hazel Barron-Cooper, Learning Officer of the Hatton Gallery expressed her delight at the success of the exhibition: “the exhibition is proving to be very popular at the Hatton Gallery and is attracting a new audience of those interested in photography, media as well as ardent Monroe fans.
“It’s also a great opportunity for people in the North East area to see a show from the National Portrait Gallery in London which includes some of the more rarely seen images of Marilyn.”
Stripping down the glitzy Hollywood façade, the collection shows how the British perceived the infamous blonde bombshell
This sentiment is shared by local visitors to the gallery such as Geraldine Dover, who commented, “I have many books and pictures of Marilyn and it is so nice to see the original images as well as images I haven’t seen before. I would definitely come here again – I think it’s wonderful”.
Still relevant now as much as ever, Marilyn inspired musicians, writers and artists like Madonna, Elton John, Joyce Carol Oates and Andy Warhol to name just a few, becoming a popular subject in pop art and fortifying her image as a timeless icon with an enticing character, sense of fashion and sordid love life.
‘Marilyn Monroe: A British Love Affair’ will be shown until May 17th at the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University.