• Marilyn Monroe | Art of Seduction

    There is no name as universally synonymous with sophisticated seduction as the iconic 20th-century film star Marilyn Monroe. Featured in over thirty films during her career, Marilyn became recognized the...

    There is no name as universally synonymous with sophisticated seduction as the iconic 20th-century film star Marilyn Monroe. Featured in over thirty films during her career, Marilyn became recognized the world over. Monroe’s trademark platinum blond hair earned her the moniker “The Blond Bombshell” and her compelling curves defined the ideal feminine silhouette for generations.

    Marilyn Monroe photographed by Bob Henriquez
    Bob Henriquez | Marilyn Monroe

    What is it exactly that made Marilyn so compelling? Photographs reveal that part of her allure was a unique mix of wholesomeness and provocative charm. Marilyn was undoubtedly a breathtaking beauty but there was more than just sex in her sultry likenesses. Even in her headshots, Marilyn engages with the viewer, pulling them into the image. This intimacy allowed America to feel as if they knew Marilyn herself, a bit of the “girl next door.”

    Marilyn Monroe mastered the art of seduction.

    Yet, the Marilyn that the public knew and loved was in fact only a fraction of the true woman. An orphan from Los Angeles who worked her way up to movie contracts, Marilyn wanted to be much more. She was well read, and studied literature at the University of California-Los Angeles in between movie contracts. As well, Marilyn was also contemplative person and clearly aware of the image of celebrity, only rarely allowing the camera lens to see behind her façade of celebrity. One can get a peek at this Marilyn in images such as that snapped by famed photographer Richard Avedon, where we see Marilyn not vamping for the camera but rather unaware of the lens, perhaps seemingly lost in thought; a shade of despair or fatigue filtering into her face.

    marilyn monroe photographed by richard avedon
    Richard Avedon | Marilyn Monroe (1957)

    The seductively gorgeous Marilyn died tragically in 1962 at thirty-six. It is clear from her beautiful portraits that she understood and appreciated that the art of photography. Always an actress, she had a special way of making it work for her, allowing staged photos to seem both iconic and natural, to the benefit of her celebrated stardom.

    Marilyn Monroe sexy ballerina by Peter Sneyder
    Peter Sneyder | Marilyn Monroe (1954)

    Marilyn was a unique beauty whose fragility, sensuality, and sense of life meant she has made a lasting impression on North American culture, an icon of feminine loveliness, never to be forgotten as the sexiest woman of her generation.

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  • Madonna | Erotic Years

    Taking the 80s by storm, Madonna stands as a legendary sex symbol who truly revolutionized the social culture of her decade. Embracing sex and rebellion as the cornerstones of her image, she fearlessly...

    Taking the 80s by storm, Madonna stands as a legendary sex symbol who truly revolutionized the social culture of her decade. Embracing sex and rebellion as the cornerstones of her image, she fearlessly bashed conservative family values, leading an age of sexual liberation and free expression. With her risqué performances and clothes, she standardized a whole new level of provocation, carving her place as the queen of pop, and most importantly, the icon who empowered women to embrace their sexuality and social autonomy.

    Madonna was a leader of a revolution that forever influenced the way we perceive erotic art. Through her sexy photos, she became a sign of free expression, showing the world that provocative art is more than just a feast for the eyes; it’s a symbol of empowerment and unbridled energy. In turn, Madonna’s exhibitionism expressed a clear agenda: Why merely shock people when you can lead a revolution?

    Madonna for Vogue Italia by Steven Meisel in 1991
    Steven Meisel | Madonna for Vogue Italia (1991)

    Madonna made this agenda clear in 1985 when she posed topless for Playboy in collaboration with the photographer, Bill Stone. In these monochromatic photos, she poses full-frontal with unshaved privates and underarms, indicating a trendy bohemian attitude toward her nakedness.

    Madonna underarms by photographer Bill Stone in 1985
    Bill Stone | Madonna (1985)

    The plain backdrop—instead of the standard glamorous background, enhances this effect, Madonna is posing within commonplace settings in most of the photos. Her simplicity and bluntness indicates a genuine, unembellished ownership over her body, producing an eroticism that is both real and attainable.

    Madonna by photographer Steven Meisel in 1992
    Steven Meisel | Madonna (1992)

    However, Madonna’s photos were perceived as lewd and distasteful, provoking a surge of public controversy surrounding her image as both a pop star and role model. Nevertheless, Madonna’s full-on nudity showed a rich confidence and a willingness to confront the conservative values of her era.

     

    The authenticity and openness of her eroticism demonstrated self-approval and true liberation. In turn, she stripped away the shame and indignity that was commonly associated with erotic photography and introduced a rich and meaningful revival of this genre.

    Madonna photographed by Steven Meisel in 1992
    Steven Meisel | Madonna (1992)

    As her sexual identity matured, she continued to push the intensity of her erotic art. On October 21, 1992, she released “Sex,” a coffee table book filled with soft-core pornographic photographs. Shot by Steven Meisel Studio, the pictures carried a sadomasochistic nature, depicting Madonna in various bondage-related poses and interactions. Every aspect of the scene represented lawlessness and youth: her untidy bleached hair, the rope and cuff restraints, and the overall explicitness of the act.

    Madonna was dubbed “The Queen of obscene.”

    Traditionalists and moralists believed she had gone too far, while her fans shared mixed reactions – some bewildered, some amazed and some inspired. But most importantly, these antics begged the question: why?

    At the heart of these photographs, we’re not merely seeing an aimless sensationalist at work, but rather something more powerful. She unleashes an inner ferocity that is inherent in all of us, but often suppressed. As a result, her photos not only bash the squeamish mainstream views of her time, but also invite people to welcome sexuality with new eyes.

    STEVEN MEISEL | MADONNA (1992)
    STEVEN MEISEL | MADONNA (1992)

    Despite all the scandal surrounding Madonna’s eroticism, there really was a method to her antics. As the ringleader of modern sexuality through the 80s, Madonna’s exploits can be viewed as a demonstration of empowerment. Her naughty trademark and explicit nudity was a pathway to a new age of women and culture.

    RE, Toronto (2015)

     

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