This portrait by the artist CLAIRE MILNER is at home in New York. She makes portraits of celebrities a bit like Warhol, but in her case, the Swarovski crystals replace the serigraphic technique. I find fascinating the shadows, the nuances, and the emotions that she manages to express thanks to subtle games of colored crystals. I am in love with this work. And I am in love with Marilyn. What is more moving than these candid eyes?


Swarovski Crystal Portrait of Marilyn Monroe commissioned for Rihanna. The portrait is 5ft x 5ft and weighs approx 80kg, made from 65 000 hand applied Swarovski Crystals, it took 4 months to complete.

This portrait of Marilyn Monroe was inspired by her own words and numerous images representing her in various guises. But who was she?

" real name was Norma Jeane Baker. They changed it when they decided to build me up. They change whatever they want to.."

There are as many different opinions about how she lived as about how she died. In my portrait I tried to capture some of the complicated and contradictary aspects of Marilyn - the glitter and the public facade, the sadness in the eyes: 

"I was never used to being happy, so that wasn't something I ever took for granted. I did sort of think, you know, marriage did that. You see, I was brought up differently from the average American child because the average child is brought up expecting to be happy..." 

I wanted people to think about the person behind the headlines when they look at this blue portrayal - not a typical blonde Marilyn: 

"It takes a smart brunette to play a dumb blonde." 

Most importantly, on the reverse of the flamboyant Swarovski Marilyn, and as a commentary on the life of a celebrity, I painted a much understated symbolic representation of Norma Jeane; hidden and unseen, made only to face the wall, whilst the Swarovski mirror image stares out at the world; her famous alter-ego, Marilyn Monroe. In the end it is up to every viewer to apply their own interpretation to this portrait of Marilyn as people did to the woman herself. 

“People are used to looking at me as if I were a kind of mirror instead of a person. They don’t see me, they see their own hidden thoughts and then they whitewash themselves by claiming that I embody those secret thoughts.” 

The crystals used in this portrait definitely have mirror like qualities and typical of Marilyn herself, this representation is larger than life. The image changes mood in different light conditions and, in the semi dark, she looks like she is about to speak for herself. 

“I want to be an artist,not...a celluloid aphrodisiac.” 

August 5th 2012 was the 50th anniversary of the death of Marilyn Monroe. Far from fading into the past, her legend continues to grow. 

“I don’t want to get old. I want to stay like I am....” 

Claire Milner (14th February 2011)