Irving Penn - Photographs New York Tuesday, October 1, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

  • Literature

    Look, 9 January 1968, pp. 52-53
    Penn, Passage: A Work Record, p. 169
    Penn, Worlds in a Small Room, p. 57

  • Catalogue Essay

    In 1967, Irving Penn persuaded Look magazine to send him to San Francisco to document its burgeoning counter-culture. He later wrote, ‘In 1967 there was word coming out of San Francisco of something stirring—new ways of living that were exotic even for California. People spoke of a new kind of young people called hippies. . . They seemed to have found a satisfying new life for themselves in leaving the society they were born to and in making their own . . . It grew on me that I would like to look into the faces of these new San Francisco people through the camera in a daylight studio, against a simple background, away from their own daily circumstances. I suggested to the editors of Look magazine that they might care to have such a report. They said yes—hurry.’

    Penn rented a building in Sausalito and constructed the same type of neutral studio environment he had used for his portraiture in Peru, New Guinea, Africa, Spain, and Portugal in previous decades. A selection of Penn’s resulting San Francisco images was published in the 9 January 1968 issue of Look under the title The Incredibles, and included Rock Groups, San Francisco, as well as Penn’s studies of the Hells Angels, and the Hippie Families, all of which captured the spirit of the time and place. Penn also included Rock Groups and other San Francisco images in his classic 1974 book Worlds in a Small Room alongside his ethnographic studies, all of which share his clear-eyed, highly descriptive approach and present their subjects as members of the same fascinating and diverse human tribe.

    Rock Groups, San Francisco, shows two of the most successful bands working in the Bay Area in 1967, Big Brother and the Holding Company, fronted by Janis Joplin, and the Grateful Dead. Both groups were at the cutting edge of the music of the day, putting their own psychedelic stamp on traditional blues forms and incorporating non-western musical elements to create an entirely new and experimental form of rock. Penn’s classic image gains new resonance in 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, at which Joplin and the Dead performed sets that have become legendary in the annals of modern music.

  • 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


Rock Groups, San Francisco (Big Brother and the Holding Company and The Grateful Dead)

Platinum palladium print, printed 1980.
19 x 19 5/8 in. (48.3 x 49.8 cm)
Signed, titled, dated, numbered 7/50, annotated in pencil, credit, copyright credit reproduction limitation and edition stamps on the reverse of the aluminum flush-mount.

$25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for $37,500

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New York Auction 1 October 2019