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Indepth Arts News:

"Irving Penn, A Career in Photography"
2000-03-25 until 2000-06-04
Museum of Fine Art, Houston
Houston, TX, USA United States of America

The career of Irving Penn (born 1917), a leading American celebrity portraitist and fashion photographer, is examined in this exhibition. For half a century, he has been associated with Vogue magazine, yet Penn's images go beyond the merely commercial. He brings an intensely personal vision to his magazine work and to projects of his own. The complex relationship between commerce and art in Penn's career is reflected in the many genres in which he has worked: from celebrity and fashion shots, to nudes and still lifes, to travel and ethnographic photographs.

Approximately 120 vintage and master prints by Irving Penn (born 1917), a leading American celebrity portraitist and fashion photographer, are featured in this exhibition. Penn's work ranges from trendsetting fashion photography and celebrity portraiture, to a highly idiosyncratic series of nudes, to ethnographic studies and travel studies that span the globe, from mud men in New Guinea to hippies in San Francisco. Yet despite the array of subjects, his work displays a remarkable unity and consistency. His photographs provide a fascinating record of cultural, economic, and political trends in the second half of this century.

Penn is perhaps best known for his simply striking and elegant fashion photography. His photography for Vogue magazine began in the 1940s and continues to be published to this day, as does his provocative work for fashion designer Issey Miyake. In contrast to the thin models he generally works with for his fashion photography, his nude figures have a weighty voluptuousness.

Penn uses various printing processes, bleaching and redeveloping prints to emphasize shading, lines, and textures. Penn has, in fact, become a master printer, revitalizing the platinum-palladium process in which photochemicals are painted onto drawing paper, providing the photographer with a high degree of control.

This exhibition has been organized by The Art Institute of Chicago. Funding in Houston has generously been provided by Charles Butt and the Chase Texas Foundation, with additional support from Mr. and Mrs. Robert L. Clarke, Jeaneane B. Duncan, and John L. Wortham and Son, L.L.P.


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