Andy Warhol’s The Star is from his renowned Myths series from 1981, a set of 10 prints that sought to explore the creation of myths in American popular culture. This print features one of only two portraits in the Myths series that depicts a real person and not a fictional character. It shows a scarlet image of the Swedish actress Greto Garbo in her role as Mata Hari.
The Swedish actress featured in the portrait was regarded as one of the greatest actresses of all time, and was known for her melancholy, sombre persona due to the myriad of tragic roles that she played in films. Consequently, this print is the amalgamation of everything that Warhol adored – beauty, celebrity and wealth. The vivid portrait has a rich quality that marks it as a standout image within the series, notably through Warhol’s use of colour and addition of diamond dust.
The Star is based on a photograph of Garbo from the film Mata Hari from 1931, flooded with an intense red, contoured in black and her eyes coloured blue as though wearing eyeshadow. Warhol transforms the original black and white film still into an icon for the late 20th century with his dazzling use of colour and bold lines. Choosing an image where the actress confidently holds the viewer’s gaze, Warhol manipulates the photograph to make it seem as though Garbo is illuminated by a strong, red light, and the resulting image embodies the popular American myth of the femme fatale.