A special edition of Vogue Paris guest edited by Rihanna profiled her favourite things entitled ‘Her passions, her style, her friends, her family, the magical world of Rihanna’. It included the Swarovski crystal portrait of Marilyn Monroe which Claire created for her.

'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 and acrylic on canvas. 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?' RIHANNA



The work, with its' themes of death and cult of celebrity is at once inspired by the mass image culture of Andy Warhol and at the same time a direct opposite in terms of process. Warhol's fast serigraphic technique has the ability to produce numerous images from one screen. Painstakingly hand made, this crystal mosaic portrait is one image made of thousands of individual elements. 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....” 



“Milner created the admired, “Blue Marilyn” Monroe portrait for Rihanna, which offers a haunting, multi-faceted insight into the duality of celebrity.. On first examination, we see the familiar, iconic image of Monroe, the other worldly film goddess, all eyes, hair, pout and twinkling star power. Look more closely, and the portrait is suffused with sadness, vulnerability and light and shade. Marilyn is blue, as blue as an Arctic winter. Similarly, in a portrait of Amy Winehouse, Milner captures the spirit, energy and ingénue sweetness of Amy Winehouse. A female Warhol, Milner is reviving the ancient mosaic techniques in Byzantine art, and mixed media, to create dazzling art that clashes nature with consumption.” Alison Jane Reid, Ethical Hedonist Magazine

”Rihanna has bought one of her portraits and her work is being snapped up by collectors across the globe.” Beyond Magazine

”THE most striking thing about North Yorkshire artist Claire Milner’s stunning portrait of Marilyn Monroe isn’t its size (five feet square), or the fact that it’s made out of Swarovski crystals – or even that pop star Rihanna paid tens of thousands of pounds for it (although that generated a fair few headlines). What hits you is that, despite its size and the way it was made .. it has a raw truth about it... There is a real fragility and vulnerability captured there. There is another haunting secret to it, too. Claire painted a second portrait on the back, of Norma Jeane Baker... There is something almost unbearably poignant about the thought of that portrait of Norma Jeane forever facing the wall. It makes the revealed face of Marilyn even more moving.” Stephen Lewis, York Press

”It’s all about the detail for Claire Milner, the stellar British talent behind the portrait of Marilyn Monroe... Claire’s philosophical approach is revealed in the surprising hidden portrait painted on the reverse that represents the young Norma Jean - a commentary on the life of a celebrity. Her richly diverse sources of inspiration include ancient art and popular culture, as well as music videos and Shakespeare. This is reflected in a dynamic adaptability, from a mosaic depicting under-sea volcanoes to iconic portraiture.” Swarovski Elements Magazine

”Epic” Mail Online

”It looks absolutely A-MAZING!
As far as extravagant purchases are concerned, this has gotta be one of the best ones we’ve seen in a long time!!!” Perez Hilton

”This is an investment guaranteed to make a statement. Mosaic artist, Claire Milner has had some high-profile clients, not surprisingly, when her portraits are produced solely of Swarovski crystals.” Beards Magazine

”..a painstaking accomplishment.” MTV Style

”Sparkling talent” HELLO! Magazine

”..the eyes are windows to the soul. And here all the work of the crystals, their colour, and the play with light and shadow give an interesting depth to Marilyn’s eyes. Beautiful, impressive and truly emotional. In all her celebrity portraits, the artist touches something more intimate and personal. Simply breath taking.” Luxury Activist

Claire Milner is the artistic genius behind the popular Marilyn Monroe 5ft x 5ft Swarovski crystal portrait. As you can see, the attention to detail in the portrait is flawless down to the strands of Marilyn’s hair!” Poshology, Online Magazine

”Rihanna purchased this Marilyn Monroe artwork made out of 65,000 SWAROVSKI CRYSTALS, it weighs 182 pounds and measures 5 by 5 feet, made by artist Claire Milner. All we can say is - WOW!” The Official Website of the Estate of Marilyn Monroe

”I love her facial expression in this picture.. It captures her beauty, but also the torment that was constant in her thoughts.” Via Marilyn Monroe Facebook Page”