Irving Penn at the MET...


05/06/17 - Irving Penn (1917-2009) carried his camera around for more than 70 years and became a privileged witness of the changes all throughout the 20th Century. This is why New York's MET Museum has entitled the retrospective dedicated to the artist with the word "Centennial", also celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth.
His first works were still lives, but back then we could already perceive Penn's characteristic discipline and rigour. Those photos have no human protagonists, but we see in them the trace they left and are invited to "complete" the scene, reading between lines...
Beef Still Life, by Irving Penn (1943)
Chromogenic print - 2003 
Penn later focus his interest in the study of the face, the figure and the personality of his subjects. He was an observer of human expression and used a very particular technique, which created volume through the use of light. After WWII he was commissioned a series of portraits and to show the oppression of the post-war years, he placed the celebrities in a corner, as if trapped.
Marcel Duchamp, by Irving Penn (1948)
Silver gelatin print
Francis Bacon, by Irving Penn (1962)
Platinum-palladium print, 1981
For Picasso's portrait, Penn had to overcome several obstacles: first, upon arrival to the artist's house, he wouldn't receive him. After insisting, Picasso appeared only for 10 minutes and wearing a hat that covered most of his head. Patiently Penn took the photos, even though one of the eyes was in shadows. 
Pablo Picasso at La Californie, Cannes, by Irving Penn (1957)
Platinum-palladium print, 1985
Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola), by Irving Penn (1948)
Silver gelatin print
These portraits offer a great chance to know artists from the 20th century that usually remained invisible to the spectators. Penn wanted his photos to be as paintings, that's why he studied the works of Francisco Goya, Honoré Daumier and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, paying special attention to the use of light and the focus of attention.
Three Asaro Mud Men, New Guinea, by Irving Penn (1970)
Platinum-palladium print, 1976
His photos were not taken for art exhibitions but for magazines, specially fashion ones, but the skill and dedication of his shots always caught the attention of the readers.
Peony "Silver Dawn", New York, by Irving Penn (2003)
Inkjet print
Mouth (for L'Oreal), by Irving Penn (1986)
Dye transfer print
As all retrospectives organized by the MET, this one is extraordinary. The great quantity of photos and the explanatory signs leave visitors happy. This is a well-deserved tribute to an artist that worked for Vogue, but left a valuable heritage. Most of the photos are copies that, although of excellent quality, don't have the aura of the originals.

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