Irving Penn (photographer)

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2015-06-26 11:05:19

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Irving Penn (photographer)

Irving Penn (1917-2009) was an American photographer.

Life and career

Penn studied drawing, painting, graphics and art. He took his first amateur photographs while he worked as a freelance designer. He then worked as art director at Saks Fifth Avenue, left to paint and take photographs, and returned to be offered a position as associate at Vogue magazine art department.

It was in his position at Vogue that he was encouraged to try his hand at the photography side. His first cover for Vogue was taken in 1943, and this was the beginning of a lifetime career of covers, portraits, fashion, still lifes and photographic essays. He was one of the first photographers to use simple grey or white backgrounds for his subjects, using angles and corners.

While best known for his fashion photography, Penn also founded his own studio and began making advertisements. His body of work includes numerous portraits of great creative names, ethnographic studies, modernist still lifes, bones, bottles, metal, found objects etc.

Today Penn is best known as one of the most successful and influential fashion photographers of the 20th century. His photographs had a direct impact on the post World War II image of fashion, chic, and glamour.

Celebrated Photographs

  • Black and White Vogue Cover (Jean Patchett), 1950
  • Harlequin Dress (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), 1950
  • Woman in Moroccan Palace (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), Marrakech, 1951
  • Cuzco Children (1948)

Notable sales

  • Woman in Moroccan Palace (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), Marrakech, 1951 was sold by Christie’s for $307,200 in October 2005, $396,000 in April 2007, $446,500 in April 2010, and €361,000 in November 2011. It was sold by Sotheby’s for $336,000 in April 2007.
  • 2 Guedras, 1972, sold for $314,500 at Christie’s in April 2010.
  • Francis Bacon (1962) sold for £187,200 at Christie’s in February 2006.
  • Harlequin Dress (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), 1950 sold at Phillips de Pury & Company for $320,000 in April 2007, and at Christie’s for $352,000 in April 2006, and €265,000 in November 2011.
  • Black and White Vogue Cover (Jean Patchett), 1950 sold at Phillips de Pury & Company for $310,000 in October 2011, and at Christie’s for $434,500 in April 2012 and for $481,000 in April 2008.
  • Cuzco Children (1948) sold at Christie’s for $361,000 in October 2007 and for $529,000 in April 2008.
  • Two Liqueurs, New York, 1951 sold for €169,000 at Christie’s in November 2011.
  • Mouth (for L’Oreal), New York, 1986, sold for €157,000 at Christie’s in November 2011.

Did you know?

Penn’s series Earthly Bodies consisted of several posed nudes of varying physical shapes and sizes. The photographs were taken around 1949-50, yet they were considered too graphic to be exhibited until as late as 1980.

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