Richard Avedon - Photographs London Friday, September 25, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Beetles+Huxley, London, 2005

  • Literature

    'Eyes on Paris and America', Harper's Bazaar, March 1959
    R. Avedon & T. Capote, Observations, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1959, p. 107
    R. Avedon et al., Evidence, 1944-1994, New York: Random House, 1994, p. 20
    Avedon Fashion: 1944-2000, New York: ICP and The Richard Avedon Foundation, 2000, p. 87
    R. Avedon & A. Hollander, Woman in the mirror, New York: Abrams, 2005, n.p.
    R. Avedon & N. Stevens, Performance, New York: Abrams, 2008, p. 65
    R. Avedon et al., Richard Avedon: Photographs 1946-2004, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2014, n.p.
    Harper's Bazaar España, July-August 2014, cover

  • Catalogue Essay

    The brilliance of Richard Avedon’s portraits lies in the effortless beauty and perfection of his prints. In 1959, his subject was the French bombshell Brigitte Bardot who catapulted into the public sphere in 1956 following the release of Et Dieu… Créa la Femme (And God Created Woman). At the time this portrait was taken, Bardot was quickly escalating to a new peak with her career, while Avedon was about to reach a 15-year anniversary at Harper’s Bazaar and in the process of creating his first book, Observations, in which he would include the recently taken portrait of Bardot as one of his masterworks.

    With Bardot’s hair styled by the famed Alexandre de Paris (Louis Alexandre Raimon) whose roster of clients included Elizabeth Taylor, the Duchess of Windsor, and nearly every fashion house in Paris, this iconic photograph was shot in January for inclusion in Harper’s Bazaar’s March issue, ‘Eyes on Paris and America’. Just as Avedon is known to capture the essence of his sitters in his portraits, Alexandre was quoted as saying, ‘[I aim] to recognise a woman's personality and match her hair to it’. To further elevate the image and bring the portrait ‘into the open’, Avedon double-exposed Bardot’s famous mane, already styled in volumes by Alexandre, to create the appearance of sudden movement, framing Bardot’s delicate facial features in a cascade of swaying, rippling waves.

    To add further appeal, Avedon chose to photograph Bardot against a grey background, as opposed to his more heavily utilised white. On the selection of grey, Avedon once commented, ‘with the tonal background, you’re allowed the romance of a face coming out of the dark.' Indeed, by using the grey background, which he also selected for the portrait of the American icon Marilyn Monroe in 1957, Avedon allows for an even more intimate reading of the image with a high contrast focused on Bardot’s most recognised features: the big hair, the luscious lips and the lined eyes with a seductive, commanding gaze. His tightly cropped and straight-on portrait makes visible the intensity of Bardot’s inner sensuality.

    The resulting masterful portrait of Bardot was featured as a full-page image in Avedon’s book Observations and has continued to be synonymous with the legacies of these two legends. As of this writing, the other prints from the edition are held in various collections, including MoMA, New York and the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, and with the Richard Avedon Foundation.

  • Artist Biography

    Richard Avedon

    American • 1923 - 2004

    From the inception of Richard Avedon's career, first at Harper's Bazaar and later at Vogue, Avedon challenged the norms for editorial photography. His fashion work gained recognition for its seemingly effortless and bursting energy, while his portraits were celebrated for their succinct eloquence. "I am always stimulated by people," Avedon has said, "almost never by ideas." 

    Indeed, as seen in his portraits — whether of famed movie stars or everyday people — the challenge for Avedon was conveying the essence of his subjects. His iconic images were usually taken on an 8 x 10 inch camera in his studio with a plain white background and strobe lighting, creating his signature minimalist style. Avedon viewed the making and production of photographs as a performance similar to literature and drama, creating portraits that are simultaneously intensely clear, yet deeply mysterious.

    View More Works

The Marie & David Cooper Collection


Brigitte Bardot, hair by Alexandre, Paris, January 27

Gelatin silver print.
58.7 x 51 cm (23 1/8 x 20 1/8 in.)
Signed and numbered 22/35 in ink in the margin; title, date and credit reproduction limitation stamps on the verso.

£180,000 - 220,000 

Sold for £212,500

Contact Specialist


Rachel Peart
Head of Sale, Specialist

Yuka Yamaji
Head of Photographs, Europe

General Enquiries
+44 20 7318 4092


London Auction 25 September 2020