Irving Penn

C/O Berlin is presenting the exhibition Irving Penn . Centennial from March 24 to July 01, 2018. The opening will be held on Friday, March 23, 2018, at 7 pm.

With a body of work stretching from portraits of Pablo Picasso, Marlene Dietrich, and Alfred Hitchcock to abstract female nudes, exquisite still lifes, elegant studies of flowers and cigarettes, portraits of children in traditional Peruvian dress, New Guinean natives, French Pâtissiers, all the way to glamorous fashion photos for Vogue, Irving Penn (1917–2009) was one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century. In his nearly 70-year career, he created an exceptionally diverse and distinctive visual cosmos. He was a virtually unparalleled master of nude, fashion, still-life, and portrait photography, and a leading figure in contemporary photography and art for over six decades. Penn’s unique style and pared-down aesthetic remain influential to this day, and have had a profound impact on innumerable successors.

At the age of just 17, Irving Penn began studying graphic design in Philadelphia. In 1943, he started work as a graphic designer for Vogue under Alexander Liberman, Art Director of the renowned fashion magazine, and photographed his first cover in the same year. More than 160 additional covers and numerous fashion photographs for Vogue followed. Penn’s fashion photographs propelled him to international fame. His interest in the human image led him to push beyond classical typologies and embark on travels to distant countries like Peru in 1948 or New Guinea and Morocco in the period between 1967 and 1971. Alongside his ethnographic studies, Penn created portraits of a number of internationally known figures from the worlds of art, film, literature, and music. Whether Salvador Dalí, Audrey Hepburn, or Saul Steinberg, he always photographed his subjects against a neutral backdrop. For his first large series of portraits, Penn constructed a corner from two upright stage flats placed together at an acute angle. Through his delimitation of space, Penn created a sense of familiarity and intimacy with the person in front of his camera. He convinced his subjects to pose in unusual ways or challenged them to take risks. Using a Rolleiflex camera, he employed the same approach to abstract space and meticulous attention to detail in his series The Small Trades, in which he depicts laborers, tradesmen, and shopkeepers in their work clothes, and in another series of portraits of indigenous people. His sensitivity to the significance of the everyday, the beauty in “ugliness”, and simplicity allowed him to continually produce new and original still lifes and graphic compositions. Particularly his still lifes from the 1990s and 2000s reflect his fascination with photography, his love of detail, his masterful play with light and the objects in front of his camera. Irving Penn ennobled his subjects, whether they were human beings or inanimate objects, with his photographic gaze and made each one special. His photographs are infused with clarity, elegance, perfection, and a flawless beauty.

C/O Berlin is commemorating the exceptional photographer Irving Penn with a major retrospective on the 100th anniversary of his birth. The retrospective featuring around 240 works was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in collaboration with The Irving Penn Foundation and will be the first exhibition of Penn’s work in Berlin in 20 years. Around 190 works donated by The Irving Penn Foundation to The Metropolitan Museum of Art form the core of the exhibition, among them the now-famous studies of Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, the most sought-after photo model of the time, who became Irving Penn’s wife and muse. The exhibition has been made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises is being shown in New York, Paris, São Paulo – and exclusively at C/O Berlin in Germany.

A comprehensive monograph accompanying the exhibition is published by Schirmer/Mosel in Munich, edited by Maria Morris Hambourg and Jeff L. Rosenheim, with articles by Maria Morris Hambourg, Jeff L. Rosenheim, Alexandra Dennett, Philippe Garner, Adam Kirsch, Harald E.L. Prins, and Vasilios Zatse and more than 365 reproductions of Irving Penn’s most important works, representing key phases of his photographic career.

The artist

Irving Penn (1917–2009) studied at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art, where Alexei Brodovitch, Art Director at Harper’s Bazaar, taught up to 1934. In 1943, Penn photographed his first cover photo for Vogue followed by many more. He became one of the most important fashion photographers of the 1950s and 1960s. After founding his own photographic studio in New York in 1953, he continued to create numerous portraits of luminaries from the worlds of film, music, and art and took innumerable still life and fashion photographs. Irving Penn ranks among the most important photographers of the last century, in no small part because of his pioneering work in both commercial and artistic photography. Penn died in New York in 2009. His photographs have been shown in numerous international exhibitions and are in major museums and collections throughout the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Framework program

Curator’s Lecture
Saturday 24.03.2018 . 17:00
The Achievement and Legacy of Irving Penn
With Jeff L. Rosenheim . Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge . Department of Photographs . The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Online Ticket

After-Work Tour & Drink
10.04.2018 . 20:00 + 20:30
15 Euro inkcl. drink, admission and tour
Remaining tickets at box office 30 min. before event
Tour in German

Life Drawing
11.04.2018 . 19:30-22:00
With Ruprecht von Kaufmann
Tickets 28/19 Euro . No regsitration required
Available online (plus booking fee) and at C/O Berlin
Box office opens 30 min. before event

Curator’s Guided Tour
12.04.2018 . 18:00
With Ann-Christin Bertrand
Tickets 5 Euro plus admission 10/6 Euro
Available online (plus booking fee) and at C/O Berlin
Box office opens 30 min. before event

19.04.2018 . 20:30
A Man for All Seasons: Irving Penn in the Context of His Times
With Colin Westerbeck
Tickets 5 Euro plus admission 10/6 Euro
Available online plus booking fee) and at C/O Berlin
Box office opens 30 min. before event
Lecture in English

Curator’s Guided Tour
20.04.2018 . 18:00
With Felix Hoffmann & Colin Westerbeck
Tickets 5 Euro plus admission 10/6 Euro
Available online (plus booking fee) and at C/O Berlin
Box office opens 30 min. before event
Tour in English

Regular Public Guided tours
Every Saturday and Sunday 2 pm and 4 pm in German language
Every Saturday 6 pm in English language
Book tour & Ticket online

+ Additional guided tours during Easter 2018
View Details

More events to be announced soon.

March 24 — July 1, 2018
Opening Reception: Friday, March 23, 7 pm
+ Framework program: please see above

Amerika Haus, Hardenbergstraße 22-24, 10623 Berlin
[Charlottenburg | Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf]

Opening hours: Daily 11 am – 8 pm

Admission: 10 € / reduced 6 € | Online Ticket

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