In early 1963 Robert Scull asked Warhol to paint a portrait of his wife Ethel after the style of Warhol’s depictions of Marilyn Monroe. Warhol took Ethel Scull to a Times Square photo booth and prompted her to take 300 black and white photographs of herself. Warhol told her jokes in an effort to make her photographs more candid.
The resulting painting, Ethel Scull 36 Times, was Robert Scull’s present to Ethel Scull on her 42nd birthday. After divorcing his wife, Robert Scull claimed ownership of the painting. Ethel Scull claimed the art work was a gift given to her by her then husband, and was her possession.
Robert Scull was born in New York to Russian immigrant parents, Scull dropped out of high school and had various jobs until he and his wife inherited a share of a taxi business. When this thrived, the couple started buying abstract art and later pop art.
“If I knew that this would be the last time you pass through this door, I’d embrace you, kiss you, and call you back for one more. If I knew that this would be the last time I would hear your voice, I’d take hold of each word to be able to hear it over and over again. If I knew this is the last time I see you, I’d tell you I love you, and would not just assume foolishly you know it already.”
— Gabriel Garcia Marquez