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Eve Arnold, American, (1912–2012)
Marilyn Monroe on Set "The Misfits," Nevada, 1960
Gelatin silver print on paper
16 x 20 in. (40.6 x 50.8 cm)

Object Type: Photography
Technique: Photography
Credit Line: Purchase, Scripps Collectors' Circle
Accession Number: 2015.2.13

It wasn’t until she was in her early thirties that Eve Arnold studied photography. Her instructor was Alexey Brodovitch, the art director of Harper’s Bazaar at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan. Blessed with a wonderful eye for the image and an ability to gain her subjects’ trust, Arnold became a leading postwar photographer. In fact, she was the first female photographer who was ever admitted to the prestigious Magnum Photos agency. Throughout her career, Arnold photographed many well-known figures such as Yves Saint Laurent, Malcolm X, Alfred Hitchcock, and Margaret Thatcher. On the other hand, Arnold took many photos of the poor and of immigrants. She was keen to transform mundane life into memorable images.

Marilyn Monroe, the subject of this work, is one of the most iconic figures Arnold worked with. She first met Monroe in the early 1950s. During their decade-long friendship, she took many photos of her. This image is one of a group Arnold took of Monroe during the shooting of the film, "The Misfits," in 1960. These photos, taken during Monroe’s last film, remain among the star’s most poignant.

Here, Monroe is depicted during a quiet moment on the movie set in Nevada. The sole indication of the film is the microphone, diminished by endless mountains and sky. Monroe, eyes shut and hands clasped at her mouth, seems entirely absorbed by her own thoughts. This period of her life was one of the most tumultuous she had ever experienced. The film was produced as her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller fell apart. Monroe would pass away just 18 months after the release of The Misfits — and one might naturally wonder what she is thinking as this photo was taken.

Arnold would later remark on the great control and manipulation Monroe exerted when being photographed. “With me,” the photographer commented, “she was in charge of the situation.” Here, though, it seems both the subject and the artist are functioning in tandem to create a work of art.

Moor Youming Chen, Scripps College '16


The Misfits is one of cinema’s most famous flops; despite direction from John Huston, writing by Arthur Miller, and a starring role for Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962), production was perpetually behind schedule and over budget. Shooting was miserable—in 108 degree weather—and the film, though now considered a classic, was panned by critics on release. It would be Monroe’s last film before her suicide. Eve Arnold was a photojournalist, both known for her portraits of the stars and for being the first female member of the photography magazine, Magnum. Here, she does not dwell on the issues that plagued production; rather, she makes the desert majestic, and shows Monroe as the public knew her: mysterious and beautiful. Despite posing for this shot, some of the sadness of the past few months bleed through here.

David Kuhio Ahia, PO ’18
Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Intern

signed in pencil on verso

gelatin silver print on paper

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