Irving Penn - Photographs New York Tuesday, October 4, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

  • Literature

    American Vogue, ‘The Black and White Idea’, 1 April 1950, cover; British Vogue, ‘The Black and White Idea’, June 1950, cover; British Vogue, ‘90 Years of Vogue’ December
    2006; Angeletti and Oliva, In Vogue: The Illustrated History of the World’s Most Famous Fashion Magazine, p. 129; Art Institute of Chicago, Irving Penn: A Career in Photography, pl. 4; Devlin, Vogue Book of Fashion Photography, p. 90; Gee, Photography of the Fifties: An American Perspective, p. 153; Harrison, Appearances: Fashion Photography Since 1945, p. 59; Knopf/Callaway, Irving Penn: Passage, a Work Record, p. 100 for a variant; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion, p. 27; Penn, Moments Preserved, p. 159; Szarkowski, Irving Penn, pl. 48; Yale University Press, The Art of Photography: 1839-1989, pl. 441

  • Catalogue Essay

    In 1943, Irving Penn, then a novice associate at the Vogue Art Department under Alexander Liberman’s directorship, was asked to create mockup sketches for would-be covers to be photographed by the famed magazine’s stable of world renowned photographers, including Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst, Erwin Blumenfeld and Man Ray, among others. After struggling to maintain the attention of said photographers to examine Penn’s sketches, Liberman suggested that Penn photograph the cover himself, thereby setting in motion a powerhouse career crowned by a multitude of iconic Vogue covers that would irrevocably change fashion photography and continue to inspire consecutive generations of visionaries.

    Black and White Vogue Cover (Jean Patchett), was taken in 1950, as advances in technology facilitated the mass-reproduction of photographic images, and the popularity of fashion photography was in its promising incipience. Editorial images by the leading photographers at the time were largely over-stylized, replete with props and rife in heavy-handed narratives. Penn’s impossibly minimalist counterapproach was, by his own humble admission, ignorance—lacking the art historical savoire faire in styling his shoots. Consequently, cumbersome and indulgent sets were replaced by stark, luminous tents. The resulting images, perhaps for their serendipitous nature, were striking in their lucid clarity and linear simplicity, allowing Vogue readers to closely study and appreciate the couture, sans distractions, as the magazine’s pages were undeniably transformed. “Commercial success and the highest aesthetic standards,” Penn quipped that same year, “are not incompatible.”

    Accordingly, Penn collaborated with some of the most coveted models of the era to create his trailblazing work. The current lot depicts Jean Patchett, among Penn’s favored models of that time, standing in close proximity to the camera, arms akimbo, confidently occupying her surrounding space. Her nonchalance at bursting past the frame is accentuated by her cool, erect pose, and her eyes pointing askance. The strong tonal contrast reduces her toa study of line and form, as a series of vertical, horizontal and diagonal vectors formed by her arms, dress, kerchief, hat and veil are etched across the image. As a fashion work it is as its most quintessential—and successful, able to extricate the bare minimum to produce an image of striking elegance and effortless timelessness. It was not surprising, therefore, that it was chosen for a cover, becoming the first black-and-white image to grace the frontispiece since color photography began gracing the covers of Vogue in 1932.

    At the time the image was produced Penn stated, “For the modern photographer the end product of his efforts is the printed page, not the photographic print.” Fashion photographers were granted a tremendous leeway in materializing their aesthetic visions, and publications, such as Vogue, were the ideal catalyst for innovative photographers to crystallize their style. For that very same reason, however, over time additional agents— editors, stylists, marketers, advertisers, accountants and legal councils— became increasingly involved in the field, ultimately dwindling down the contribution of the photographer. By 1964 Penn had reversed his earlier perspective, stating “A beautiful print is a thing in itself, not just a halfway house on the way to the page.” That same year Penn began printing his images in platinum palladium.

    As a process, printing in platinum palladium was costly and lengthy, and had become largely neglected by photographers by then. Despite the demands posed by the printing process, it provided a number of advantages, which by that point in Penn’s career were essential. Having grown dismayed by photographer’s weakend individuality in fashion photography, Penn was drawn to the enhanced tonal subtlety, warmth, depth and richness proffered by printing in platinum palladium, turning the fashion image into an emphatically photographic print whose likeness could not be mass produced in any fashion publication. Ever the perfectionist, however, Penn experimented with over 100 different papers before deciding on his desired type. The hand-brushing of the platinum onto the paper by Penn lent each print a sculptural element, as if gently molded into near-corporeal presence. By printing his earlier fashion images, such as Black and White Vogue Cover, Penn was able to breathe new life and dimensionality into his own unparalleled legacy, and the dazzling allure of fashion photography.

  • 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


Black and White Vogue Cover (Jean Patchett), New York

Platinum palladium print, printed 1976.
17 3/4 x 15 1/4 in. (45.1 x 38.7 cm).
Signed, titled, numbered 27/34, annotated 'Platinum-palladium', 'Print made October 1976' in pencil, Condé Nast copyright credit reproduction limitation and edition stamps on the verso.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $374,500


4 October 2011
New York