For the first time in France, the entire collection of Irving Penn's photographs at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) is presented. L'unique opportunity to discover the works of one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century.

The Cour des expositions des Franciscaines invites visitors to discover the extraordinary artistic career of Irving Penn (1917-2009), who left his mark on the world of fashion and was one of the major figures of Vogue magazine for over sixty years. With 109 works, all of Penn's series are on display, representing the artist's entire career from 1939 to 2007: from the first photographs taken on the streets of New York or in the southern United States, to "Small Trades", including portraits of personalities from the art world photographed in New York or Europe, ethnographic portraits taken around the world, or fashion photos, including those of his wife, the supermodel Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn. Most of them have become icons in the history of photography.

Mostly studio-based, his work is characterized by an aesthetic of elegant simplicity with meticulous attention to composition, nuance and detail. Penn was an outstanding creator but also a demanding technician for whom the photographic print was of paramount importance. He experimented extensively in the laboratory, particularly with the platinum printing process, reviving a 19th century technique that fascinated him with its infinite possibilities, its exceptional tonalities and the depth it gave to the image. 

All the works presented here belong to the collection of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, in Paris. Irving Penn is one of the key figures around whom the MEP's collection of photographs has been built. Very close to the institution since its creation in the 1990s, Penn placed his trust in it throughout his life and encouraged the constitution of a unique collection. Since its opening in 1996, the MEP has been the first French institution dedicated to photography in all its forms. The MEP's collections are representative of international photographic creation from the 1950s to the present day, including the most important collection of works in France dedicated to the photographer Irving Penn. Simon Baker, Director of the MEP, has a PhD in Art History and is a graduate of University College London. In 2009, he joined the Photography and International Art Department of the Tate in London, where he has curated numerous exhibitions.

Curator of the exhibition: Pascal Hoël, Head of Collections at the MEP. Frédérique DOLIVET, Assistant to the Head of Collections. The exhibition is presented in 5 main thematic sections (Early works and Travels/ Portraits/ Nudes/ Fashion and beauty/ Still life) in a sober and elegant scenography faithful to the spirit of the artist, realized by BGC Studio and lit by Gelatic.

A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart of the viewer and transforms him. In a word, it is an effective photograph

Irving Penn


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