Artwork is created for a reason, and the reason that an artist chooses to do a particular work will tie to a theme. These themes vary from secular, to political, human experience, and historic to name a few. This essay will discuss the themes utilized by Andy Warhol when he created “Green Marilyn” a silkscreen on synthetic polymer paint on canvas in 1962, and by Gilbert Stuart in 1795 when he created “George Washington” using oil on canvas.
The theme of “Green Marilyn” is the Human Experience (69). It was created soon after the death of Marilyn Monroe. Warhol tended to paint objects that were currently en vogue with popular culture and Marilyn Monroe was very famous. The work was probably created to pay homage to her life at a time that the entire country and some of the world was mourning her death. Color plays an important role in this composition. Warhol uses complementary colors in this artwork to highlight Monroe’s features. The background for this work is a shade of green while her lips are red. These two colors are complementary, harmonies involving colors directly opposite one another on the color wheel (97). Also, her hair is very pure yellow which makes it very intense (96). The use of intense, complementary colors helps to place emphasis (134) to the beautiful features that make up Marilyn Monroe’s face.
I initially thought the theme for “George Washington” was the Human Experience, but after further thought, I think the theme is Politics and Social Order (57). “George Washington” was created in 1795, four years before the death of the President. He was President of the United States at the time of the painting which made him a popular subject. This painting shows him as a very distinguished individual, as fitting his public office. It is very dark and portrays the President as very stoic. This does not humanize him to the populace, but rather makes him appear unapproachable. Color is used to emphasis his face. The vast majority of the work is made using black, but his face is emphasized by the use of hues (96) of red. This also lightens up the work around the face which draws the viewer’s attention. The artist also highlights the President’s face with the use of implied lines (86). Stuart uses shading to make these implied lines, the further from the face, the more the lines and background blur together. The expression on the face is very stoic, this again plays into the theme of Politics and Social Order, because it makes Washington appear Presidential and not common.