Irving Penn

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Irving Penn has been hailed as one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century. His portraits and fashion photography have been internationally recognised and celebrated by critics and public alike.

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Artist Biography

Irving Penn was born to a Russian Jewish family in New Jersey in July 1917. Throughout his career Penn explored illustration, advertising, photojournalism, portraiture, travel, still and television. Specialising in fashion photography, he worked almost exclusively in a studio environment. His subjects were set against a muted background and under specific lighting conditions, thus highlighting the qualities of the individual rather than their surroundings or social context. Penn’s portraits are stylistically often very simplistic, but the character of the sitter is always given great importance.

Penn published a number of critically acclaimed books such as Moments Preserved (1960) and Worlds in a Small Room (1974). His work has been exhibited in many galleries worldwide, famously exhibiting his photographs of Cigarettes in a 1975 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and more recently a survey of his portraiture work at the National Portrait Gallery London, in 2010. Irving Penn died in 2009.

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