525 – Joan Crawford/Girl at Mirror Comparison

Joan Crawford/Girl at Mirror Comparison

Andy Warhol (1929-1987)
Joan Crawford, 1962
Graphite on paper
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution Dia Center for
the Arts
1997.1.17

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Girl at Mirror, 1954
Oil on canvas, Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, March 6, 1954
From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum
©1954 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN

Audio commentary by Stephanie Plunkett, Deputy Director/Chief Curator of Norman Rockwell Museum and
Jesse Kowalski, Curator of Exhibitions of Norman Rockwell Museum

Speaker 1: Even though Rockwell was not as focused on the subject of celebrity as Andy Warhol was, celebrities did creep into his work quite a bit. One interesting comparison that we have is an early drawing by Andy Warhol of Joan Crawford with Rockwell’s 1954 Girl At Mirror, which has a movie magazine in it on the lap of the young girl, who is imagining what her future might be. It’s a portrait of the actress Jane Russell, who had played opposite Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

In the Rockwell, we see a young girl gazing at herself in the mirror. This is an age-old format that artists have used for centuries, using a looking glass to actually frame what the viewer sees, but also to pose the question of who am I? Who am I going to be? In the case of Rockwell’s Girl At Mirror, we notice a couple of things. The girl is growing up. The young girl’s doll is certainly still there, it’s within reach, but closer at hand is the comb and the lipstick and the accoutrements of young womanhood. I wonder if you might say a little bit about why Andy Warhol would have drawn Joan Crawford, and where was he in his life at that time?

Speaker 2: When he did the Joan Crawford drawing, it was really the transition between advertising and pop art. At the time, he’d started to experiment with pop art, but it wasn’t quite paying the bills. He was still in the world of advertising. The Joan Crawford drawing is really from a 1940s advertisement for Maybelline. Joan Crawford was the spokesperson for Maybelline, and this was really just a reproduction of that drawing. Warhol grew up loving celebrities and movie stars.

He was very sick as a child. For several months, he was bedridden and would write to movie stars, collect movie star photographs, movie star magazines etc. One of his most prized possessions was a photograph, autographed to him, by the young actress Shirley Temple, who autographed it to Andrew Warhola, which is in the exhibit. Throughout his life, he was fascinated with celebrity. By the time he was doing this Joan Crawford drawing and Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, he had collected hundreds and hundreds of publicity photographs of celebrities.