Bert Stern

Photographer Bert Stern spent three sessions with Marilyn Monroe shooting for Vogue Magazine in Los Angelos’ Hotel Bel-Air in late June 1962, six weeks before her the great star’s death. These sessions produced extraordinarily beautiful and unique images of Marilyn. Bert Stern’s career exemplifies the concept of the commercial photographer as a cultural hero. Money, power, and celebrity have made him almost as much of an icon as the famous faces he has photographed. He has become the prototype of the fashion photographer as the embodiment of glamour.

Stern’s photography career happened almost as a fluke. Working as a messenger and mail clerk at Look magazine in 1947, Art Director Herschel Bramson, recognizing something special, encouraged Stern to study art books at the library, and visit the Museum of Modern Art. But it was Irving Penn’s work that really galvanized Stern’s desire to be a photographer.Drafted during the Korean War, Stern photographed the troops’ ships heading to Japan. These later became his first published photographs. Upon his return to the United States, Stern explored advertising photography, and achieved success with his work for Smirnoff Vodka, including one of the most famous images: A Giza pyramid reflected upside down in a martini glass.

Bert Stern went on to photograph for Vogue the premiere fashion magazine, and married Allegra Kent, a principal dancer with the New York Ballet. These events expanded his interest in shooting the arts, and he began to concentrate his efforts on fashion and celebrity portraiture.His best known work is arguably a collection of 2,500 photographs, some nude or semi-nude, taken of Marilyn Monroe, American idol’s, in three sittings over a three day period, six weeks before her death. As they were the last posed photographs taken of Monroe, the portfolio has come to be known as “The Last Sitting”. The photographs were taken for Vogue, who published several of them following Monroe’s death. 
Vogue wanted the Marilyn Monroe shoot and Marilyn Monroe chose Bert Stern as her photographer. A book containing these photographs, including copies of proofs over which Monroe had written comments, or crossed out with lipstick, was published in 1992 with the title Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting.

Vogue published eight pages of the fashion shoot the day after Monroe died. Twenty years later, in 1982, Vogue ran 12 pages of the nude images only.
The fashion images are bold and wonderfully expressive in a formal way, while Monroe playing with the chiffon scarves show her endlessly improvising her poses and expressions are the less formal. Several images among The Last Sitting series also carry thick ink crosses indicating that she vetoed them. 
The Bert Stern Marilyn show, “The Last Sitting,” opened in June 2006 at the small Musée Maillol on the Left Bank. The exhibition shows Monroe’s transition from pinup girl to 20th-century Venus. In a catalog essay Mr. Lorquin’s brother, Bertrand, a curator at the museum, evokes the nudes of Botticelli, Rubens, Velázquez, Goya, Ingres and Manet to give Monroe’s sculptured curves a place in art history.
Bert Stern also directed Jazz on a Summer’s Day, a 1959 documentary film set at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. In 1999 the film was deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Stern worked as a photographer on the film Lolita (1962) and was responsible for the publicity photographs of its star Sue Lyon. He has photographed Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of “Cleopatra,” and celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Lucille Ball, Goldie Hawn and Drew Barrymore in addition to his work for advertising and travel publications. In 2005 Stern received the ‘Man of the Year’ award from the prestigeous annual Art Directors Guild.
Bert Stern’s photography has been exhibited all over the world, including Toyko, London, and New York. “I Wanna Be Loved By You: Photographs of Marilyn Monroe,” was shown at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY; and in 2006 at the Bass Museum in Miami FL Also in June of 2006 “The Last Sitting,” opened at the small Musée Maillol on the Left Bank to throngs of people. The show was so well received that it was extended two times.