Irving Penn - PHOTOGRAPHS London Wednesday, May 19, 2010 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist

  • Exhibited

    London, National Portrait Gallery, Irving Penn Portraits, 18 February - 6 June 2010 (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    Vogue, November 1951; I. Penn, Moments Preserved: Eight Essays in Photographs and Words, Simon & Schuster, 1960, p. 156 

  • Catalogue Essay

    Penn’s portrait of Audrey Hepburn was taken to mark her Broadway debut in Gigi and appeared in Vogue in the issue of November 1st 1951 (the play opened a week later). It was the magazine’s first published picture of the 22-year-old actress and dancer. Hepburn was fond of repeating that on arrival ‘the first two things I saw were the Statue of Liberty and Richard Avedon’. As it turned out, it was the other giant of magazine photography who photographed her first.
    Penn had taken it in Paris earlier in the year during a trip which also saw a sitting in her Palais-Royal apartment with Gigi’s creator, the elderly novelist Colette. By this time, Penn had abandoned the two stylistic motifs that had marked out his studio portraiture almost as still life studies: firstly the positioning of the sitter on or against an unravelled length of dark carpet, and secondly the ‘corner portrait’, wherein sitters were required to arrange themselves – or in a few cases allow themselves to be arranged – in the apex of two perpendicular studio flats. In both cases Penn made either full-length studies or at least photographed his subjects from the waist up, observing their movement (or lack of it) within these unanticipated and restrictive spaces. By 1950, he had replaced these conceits with a closer scrutiny of the sitter’s face. The resulting portraits, of which this head and shoulders study is emblematic, were characterised by tight and unexpected close cropping, any trace of the studio now confined to a simple neutral backdrop (he had experimented with tight cropping-in on his first series of nudes in 1949). The interaction of photographer and sitter was, if still off-kilter, at least warmer – a concentration on gaze and expression rather than a cold-blooded observation of physical contortion.
    (Robin Muir, April 2010)

  • 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. 

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Audrey Hepburn, Paris

Gelatin silver print.
34.9 x 34 cm (13 3/4 x 13 3/8 in).
Signed, dated in ink, titled in pencil, Condé Nast copyright credit reproduction limitation and edition stamps on the verso. One from an edition of 6 silver prints.

£25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for £48,050


20 May 2010