Irving Penn - Photographs Evening Sale New York Wednesday, April 1, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Europe

  • Literature

    The Art Institute of Chicago, Irving Penn: A Career in Photography, p. 114
    Greenough, Irving Penn: Platinum Prints, p. 37
    Penn, Moments Preserved, p. 39
    Taschen, 20th Century Photography, p. 483

  • Catalogue Essay

    From early on in his career, Irving Penn adhered to the principles underlying the medium of photography, especially with close attention to clarity, illumination, and linearity. As early as 1947, Penn began repudiating the pictorialist-inspired modes in photography—be it fashion or portraiture—by stripping away lavish interiors and contrived narratives. By doing so, Penn enabled the clothes and the sitters to assume the central role of his images. Of this, John Szarkowski had remarked, “[Penn’s photographs] are not stories, but simply pictures.” Penn rejected the notion that portraits ought to be set within a context that readily identified the sitters—writers at their desk; singers by a microphone; thespians on stage; or artists at their studio—and layer by layer, removed the common traps that detracted from the point of focus. In fact, it was Penn’s studio—not a lavish mansion, or a Louis XV boudoir, or a Victorian library—that became the sole space within which sitters were captured under his lens.

    From the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, Penn continuously simplified his portraits, gradually removing the architectural corners he had been using to photograph such notables as Alfred Hitchock and Marlene Dietrich. By 1957, the year the present lot, Picasso (B), Cannes, was taken, Penn had removed not only any gratuitous props but also any bodily references or gestures that could have compromised the unique individuality of the famed Spanish artist, by then already one of the art world’s leading figures. The close-up portrait is skillfully and almost perfectly centered by Picasso’s cyclopean eye, paying homage to the Cubist style that he was instrumental in popularizing with Georges Braque. References to the Modernist style, in fact, abound in the photograph: the strong tonal contrasts, the robe framing the jawline, the cropping of the ear, the different lines dissecting the plain. Indeed, the portrait is far more akin to Picasso’s gris-toned Buste de Femme, 1956, than any of Penn’s other portraits. In that regard, the image is more likely how Penn imagined Picasso would envision himself. Ultimately, Picasso (B), Cannes, is a carefully nuanced composition commemorating the legacy of not one, but two great masters, each delicately revealing his undeniable skill and style on different sides of the same lens.

  • Artist Biography

    Irving Penn

    American • 1917 - 2009

    Arresting portraits, exquisite flowers, luscious food and glamorous models populate Irving Penn's meticulously rendered, masterful prints. Penn employed the elegant simplicity of a gray or white backdrop to pose his subjects, be it a model in the latest Parisian fashion, a famous subject or veiled women in Morocco.

    Irving Penn's distinct aesthetic transformed twentieth-century elegance and style, with each brilliant composition beautifully articulating his subjects. Working across several photographic mediums, Penn was a master printmaker. Regardless of the subject, each and every piece is rendered with supreme beauty. 

    View More Works


Picasso (B), Cannes

Selenium toned gelatin silver print, printed 1984.
16 x 15 1/8 in. (40.6 x 38.4 cm)
Signed, titled, dated, initialed in ink, Condé Nast copyright credit (courtesy Vogue) reproduction limitation, credit and edition stamps on the reverse of the mount. One from an edition of 21.

$60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $100,000

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head, Photographs

Shlomi Rabi
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Photographs Evening Sale

New York 1 April 2015 6pm