This fall at the Grand Palais, for the first time in France and on the occasion of his centenary, there is a retrospective that retraces the 70-year career of the great American photographer, Irving Penn.
The exhibition features 230 tirages en noir et blanc& in coulours: celebrity portraits, nudes, Fashion Photography, mise en place by Maria Morris Hambourg, independent curator and founding curator of The Met’s Department of Photographs, and by Joyce Frank Menschel, Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs at The Met.
Irving Penn attended the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art from 1934 to 1938, where he studied drawing, painting, graphics, and industrial arts. At the age of 24, Penn transitioned from painting to photography. Being a perfectionist, he would revolutionize the world of fashion with his unique and refined style of photography: “His rigorous modern compositions, minimal backgrounds, and diffused lighting were innovative and immensely influential” (The Met).
Penn started as an assistant at ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ with the legendary art director Alexey Brodovitch in 1937. In 1943, he became the assistant to Alexander Liberman, Vogue’s’ art director.
Penn redefined beauty in the pages of Vogue. His first credit appeared in the August 1943 issue; his last in August 2009. During all this six decades with Vogue, Penn created an unprecedented 165 covers—more than any other single photographer.
“We don’t call them shoots here,” Penn told journalist Jay Fielden in 2009. “We don’t shoot people. It’s really a love affair.” He had such a rare ability to capture the spirit of things in a graphic way. He changed the definition of beauty through his compositions and aesthetics, in which simplicity and informality predominated over glamour and gloss.
Obsessed with printmaking, the photographer “believed that there were many ways to interpret his negatives during the printing process,” write the curators. “Variations,” they note, “were freedom for Penn: Each denoted a different thought about what the picture should express. It followed that there could be many versions of ‘perfect.’ ”
Exhibition runs from 21 September 2017 – 29 January 2018 At the Grand Palais, Paris
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