Irving Penn (June 16, 1917 – Oct. 7, 2009 at age 92) is one of the most celebrated photographers in America. He has work still exhibited today from every state of his wide-ranging fifty year career. He was a creator of character and timeless beauty, always captures the personalities and faces and is known for his glamour photography and post World War II feminine chic.
Style Fashion and Portraiture Photography
Beginnings Irving Penn started out with fashion editorial assignments. He later worked at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art which is now the University of the Art under Alexey Brodovitch. Once Harper’s Bazaar published some of his drawings he later became a fashion photographer for Vogue magazine. He 1953 he started his own studio. He kept his photographs simple while using white and grey backdrops keeping things clean and clear.
He married his favorite model, Lisa Fonssagrives in 1950, she later died in 1992. They had a son, designer Tom Penn. Irving Penn’s brother is Arthur Penn, the movie director.
Legacy Irving Penn constantly has collections exhibited. The collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, his famous photograph of Jean Patchett from 1949 “The Tarot Reader” is on permanent display. Irving also has a collection of his personal items and materials relating to his photography career at the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art had a solo exhibit of Irving Penn’s work in 2002 which included 53 photographs. At the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Irving had a Platinum Prints exhibit in July 2005. At the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City Irving had 67 portraits displayed between January and April of 2008. And his most extensive collection to date was at the J.Paul Getty Museum in Sept. 2009 which displayed 252 taken from 1950 to 1951 of his full-length portraits.
Business Ventures Irving Penn wrote a number of books including the most recent “A Notebook at Random” published in 2004 which has a wonderful selection of paintings, photographs and documents of his work and methods. Another amazing book which is “Still Life” was published in 2001.