More than 200 photographs by Penn will comprise the exhibition, including: iconic fashion studies of Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, the artist's wife; Quechua children in Cuzco, Peru; tribesmen in New Guinea; color flower studies; nudes; portraits of urban laborers; and still lifes. The artist's beloved studio portraits of cultural figures will also be featured. Additional works in the exhibition will be drawn from the Met’s prior holdings of photographs by Penn. Moreover, a selection of the artist’s relatively unknown paintings and drawings may also be included.
Mr. Campbell commented: "This spectacular promised gift of photographs, spanning the breadth of achievement of one of America’s greatest photographers, will transform the Met’s already strong holdings by Irving Penn into the largest public collection of this material in the world. It is a tribute to the rich history and scholarly achievement of our Department of Photographs that The Irving Penn Foundation will donate these important photographs to the Met and that they have also chosen this Museum to organize Penn’s centennial exhibition.”
Tom Penn, the artist's son and Executive Director of The Irving Penn Foundation, noted: "With its encyclopedic holdings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is well-positioned to curate and present this centennial exhibition, and then to permanently house these carefully preserved examples of my father's works on paper."
The Met’s current collection of works by Irving Penn consists of some 145 photographs. These include a suite of 65 nude studies from 1949–50 donated by the artist in 2002, which the Met featured in the 2002 exhibition and publication Irving Penn: Earthly Bodies. 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 of laborers with the tools of their trades in Paris, London, and New York. 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 Metropolitan 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 Irving Penn: Earthly Bodies.
The 2017 retrospective exhibition will be organized by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Curator in Charge of the Metropolitan’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.
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June 12, 2015
Image: Cigarette No. 37, New York, 1972. Palladium print. © The Irving Penn Foundation.