The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present a major retrospective of the photographs of Irving Penn to mark the centennial of the artist’s birth. Over the course of his nearly 70-year career, Irving Penn (1917–2009) mastered a pared-down aesthetic of studio photography that is distinguished for its meticulous attention to composition, nuance, and detail.
Opening April 24, 2017, Irving Penn: Centennial will be the most comprehensive exhibition to date of the work of the great American photographer.
The exhibition follows the 2015 announcement of the landmark promised gift from The Irving Penn Foundation to The Met of more than 150 photographs by Penn, representing every period of the artist’s dynamic career with the camera. The gift will form the core of the exhibition, which will feature more than 200 photographs by Penn, including iconic fashion studies of Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, the artist’s wife; exquisite still-lifes; Quechua children in Cuzco, Peru; portraits of urban laborers; female nudes; tribesmen in New Guinea; and color flower studies. The artist’s beloved portraits of cultural figures from Truman Capote, Picasso, and Colette to Ingmar Bergman and Issey Miyake will also be featured. Rounding out the exhibition will be photographs by Penn that entered The Met collection prior to the promised gift.
The exhibition is made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Enterprise Holdings Endowment, and The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation.
It is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in collaboration with The Irving Penn Foundation.
The catalogue is made possible by the Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, Inc., the Mary C. and James W. Fosburgh Publications Fund, and the Roswell L. Gilpatric Publications Fund.
History of Irving Penn in The Met Collection
The Met’s collection of works by Irving Penn currently consists of some 145 photographs. These include a suite of 65 nude studies from 1949–50 donated by the artist in 2002 and featured that same year in The Met’s exhibition Earthly Bodies: Irving Penn’s Nudes, 1949-50 and its publication. In 2014, with funds from an anonymous benefactor, the Museum acquired from The Irving Penn Foundation an extraordinary group of 64 platinum prints from the artist’s celebrated Small Trades series from 1950–51 depicting laborers in Paris, London, and New York with the tools of their trades. The portraits of workers (as well as the nudes and other photographs in the Museum’s collection) will be a key component of the centennial exhibition.
The Museum began to acquire photographs by Irving Penn in 1959. It has presented two monographic shows on the artist to date: in 1977, Irving Penn: Street Material. Photographs in Platinum Metals, 1975–1976, and, in 2002, the aforementioned Earthly Bodies: Irving Penn’s Nudes.
The exhibition is organized by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Curator in Charge of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Photographs, and Maria Morris Hambourg, an independent curator and a former Met colleague who founded the department.
A scholarly publication will accompany the exhibition and include essays by Maria Morris Hambourg and Jeff L. Rosenheim, as well as by other scholars in the field. The publication will feature one of the largest selections of Penn’s photographs ever compiled—nearly 300—including famous and beloved images as well as works that have never been published. The accompanying essays will acquaint readers with Penn’s primary subjects and campaigns, including early still lifes and portraits, fashion, female nudes, the indigenous peoples of New Guinea, cigarettes studies, and much more.
A series of public exhibition tours are planned in conjunction with the exhibition.
There will be an evening talk presented in conjunction with the exhibition, Leonard A. Lauder on the Photographs of Irving Penn. In this conversation with Jeff Rosenheim, Leonard Lauder (Chairman Emeritus, The Estee Lauder Companies, Inc.; Chairman Emeritus, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York) will recall his long relationship with the artist, and his enduring fascination with the iconic American photographer’s work. It will take place on Tuesday, April 25, 2017, at 6:30 pm, in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at The Met Fifth Avenue. Tickets start at $45. Details available here.
Following its presentation at The Met, the exhibition will travel to the Grand Palais, Paris (September 2017–January 2018), and subsequently to Berlin and Sao Paulo, Brazil.