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Smithsonian to host Irving Penn retrospective: 'Beyond Beauty'


7 Jul 2015


The Smithsonian American Art Museum, beating its New York archrival to the punch, announced Monday what it called the first retrospective of Irving Penn's photography in nearly two decades.

"Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty," opening October 23, will feature 146 photographic prints, many of them never exhibited or even seen before, it said in a statement. New Jersey native Penn -- who died in New York in October 2009 at age 92 -- is best known for his groundbreaking fashion photography, notably in Vogue magazine, from the mid-1940s and into the 1950s.

But the Smithsonian show will also include rare street scenes Penn shot in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as celebrity portraits, still lifes and "more private studio images," the publicly-funded museum said. Moreover, it will reveal a Super 8 home movie of Penn in Morocco, taken by his wife Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, it said.

In announcing the exhibition, the Smithsonian is upstaging New York's famed Metropolitan Museum of Art, which last month announced its own Penn retrospective in April 2017 to mark the centennial of his birth.

"'Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty,' the first retrospective of Penn's work in nearly 20 years, will celebrate his legacy as a modern master and demonstrate the photographer's continued influence on the medium," the Washington-based museum said in its statement.

The Smithsonian's collection of Penn photographs is slightly more extensive. It includes 60 prints that he personally donated in 1988 and another 100 that it received from the Irving Penn Foundation, which oversees his legacy.

"A review of Penn's whole career persuades me that in his last 20 years he became bolder and more daring, a turn that this exhibition begins to explore," stated Betty Broun, the museum's director. The Smithsonian exhibition will run through March 20 next year, after which it will tour several other American cities. (AFP)

Irving Penn
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the smithsonian american art museum