No name defined the 1950’s more than Marilyn Monroe. She was larger than life, a Hollywood icon, and arguably the sexiest woman ever to grace the big screen. Google her name and you’ll find an endless amount of photographs of the mid 20th century starlet taken by some of the most revered photographers to ever hold a camera. Although, there is one image of Ms. Monroe that has long been sought after only to recently emerge from the shadows.
On May 27, 1949, an-out- of-work and broke Monroe posed nude for photographer Tom Kelley at his studio in Hollywood, California. Agreeing to the session under the condition that Kelley’s wife, Natalie, attend the shoot, Monroe signed the model release as “Mona Monroe” and earned a paltry $50. Neither the photographer, nor 22-year old Monroe realized the historic moment they were creating. Chicago-based printing company John Baumgarth Company acquired the prized “Red Velvet” Kodachrome photograph in 1951. Baumgarth used them to create three iconic images of the bombshell that were then printed and sold in an estimated 9 million “Golden Dream” calendars. Reproducing Monroe’s refined features, supple texture and luxurious tones was no small feat – print artisans painstakingly created and corrected the many layers of film for the full color printing process to make the original Chromalin color proof separations – a masterpiece of printer’s art.
In late winter 1952, the press discovered that the nude model in these best-selling calendars was none other than 20th Century Fox’s biggest star. The Studio’s initial reaction was to deny everything. No major Hollywood celebrity had ever done such a thing.
Believed to have been lost forever, the Kodachrome and color Separations actually remained amidst Baumgarth’s massive print archives until Baumgarth’s assets were acquired in 1988 by the Renaissance Publishing Company but were only discovered in 2009 when Renaissance went into bankruptcy and sold off its holdings. The Separations used to produce the large-format calendars are the only known surviving examples that have changed hands through a series of corporate acquisitions.
The framed Kodachrome photograph and the color Separations are now mounted and protected in OP3 museum-quality acrylic frames (29” x 24”) and will be suspended from gallery ceilings across America. Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas are just a few of the major U.S. cities that will host viewings of these historic images before they are formally auctioned off.
Internet vintage poster and art retailer, Limited Runs, has partnered with the Messenger Art Collection, Las Vegas art collector and owner of the original, one-of-kind color separations used to produce the iconic Marilyn Monroe “Golden Dream” calendars from the 1949 nude “Red Velvet” photo shoot. The pristine-condition Kodachrome photograph and 21 large format separations (24” x 20”), will be made available for limited public viewing in select U.S. cities before being offered for collective sale in September 2015.