Irving Penn's Extraordinary Portrait Photographs

Irving Penn's Wife and Model Lisa Fonssagrives

Irving Penn Portraitist Extraordinaire

At age 90 Irving Penn, the dean of American portrait photographers, continues his work in New York City. As did Richard Avedon, Penn began at Vogue magazine in the 1940s. Penn's portraits span time and subjects unmatched by any other photographer. [Irving Penn died October 7, 2009 at age 92.]

An exhibition of his work entitled "Close Encounters: Irving Penn Portraits of Artists and Writers" organized by Peter Barberie at the Morgan Library in New York City. The exhibit displays portraits of Picasso, Simone de Beauvoir, Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, H.L. Mencken, Marcel Duchamps, Jean Cocteau, S.J. Perelman, Carson McCullers, Arthur Miller, Orson Welles, Jasper Johns and other artists and writers. A NYTimes slide show sampling of Penn's "Close Encounters" exhibit is linked below along with Karen Rosenberg's article in the Times.

Marcel Duchamp

Richard Avedon portrait by Irving Penn

Pablo Picasso

Marlene Dietrich

Lisa Cant

Blaise Cendrars and His wife, Raymone Duchateau

Jesseye Norman

Sophia Loren

Salvador Dali

Kate Moss

S.J. Perelman

Cafe in Lima

Truman Capote
Truman Capote
James VanDerZee, Harlem Photographer
James VanDerZee, Harlem Photographer | Source
Diane Von Furstenberg
Diane Von Furstenberg
Jean Cocteau
Jean Cocteau
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Girl Drinking, Irving Penn
Girl Drinking, Irving Penn
Jasper Johns, N.Y. 2006
Jasper Johns, N.Y. 2006

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Comments 31 comments

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai

Loved the slide show. What power!

Had seen only the Cocteau and Picasso before.

Many thanks, Ralph!

Iðunn 9 years ago

bah, I get jealous because I don't live anywhere near anything more cultural than a cow on a stick downtown with our county's dairy figures listed under it. :(

good hub :)

C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

C.M. Vanderlinden 9 years ago from Metro Detroit

Great hub, Ralph! I love that photo of Marcel Duchamp.

stanskill profile image

stanskill 9 years ago from Greensburg, PA

I started out in black, and it's still my favorite because of the varying degrees on shadows, blacks and whites.

AuraGem profile image

AuraGem 9 years ago from Victoria, Australia

I drift through all this cultural exotica on a magic carpet and then tumble into loun's comment! Nothing like raw reality! But hey lounn! I wouldn't trade my mountain by the bay for anyone! Your cows and my trees + water = earthy culture! lol

Great hub!

Smiles and light

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 9 years ago from North America

Amazing photos. So glad to get a look.

Iounn - Cow on a stick???

shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 9 years ago from Calcutta

Amazing ! simply amazing!!

can i ask a question? how did you insert marcel's photo in the text portion of the HUB?

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 9 years ago Author

I used the little green arrows to make the image smaller. Then I moved it up next to the text. It works pretty automatically.

Thanks for the comments.

Iðunn 9 years ago

ok, the infamous cow-on-a-stick story.

the town I lived in and closest to now that I'm out in the country, has a cow-on-a-stick in the main square downtown. It's a huge metal pole with a giant metal and painted cow stuck on it, just what it sounds like.

there is a new one they put about 5 years ago, a bit smaller than the last one which was HUGE. they took the old one down and it was sitting on a mechanics lot for the longest time, all HUGE and cow-y and it had a 'for sale' sign on it, $1000.

I wanted this cow, all I could think was geeze, what a bargain. I had a dream, friends. I had a dream of buying the giant cow, cutting a windshield out of the chest, dropping in a motor and a horn and of driving this giant cow as a cow-car. then you could be like driving along and if someone was in your way, you could honk the horn "moooo-ve over". wouldn't that be neat?

except, ahem. I didn't have a thousand dollars or money to make it a cow car, even if it were possible and given all that, even if I could have afforded it, it was too big to go under the street lights. :(

another busted dream. story of my life. :|

Iðunn 9 years ago

sorry for disrupting your artistic flow, ralph :(

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 9 years ago Author

Take a picture of it and make a cow-on-a-stick Hub!

Iðunn 9 years ago

lol, I should but I don't have a digital cam or a scanner. I suppose I could get a regular pic on a disposable cam and let the drugstore put one on disc for me, though. I'll see what I can do. :)

rural texas culture... a thing of beauty. :D

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 9 years ago Author

Iðunn 9 years ago

roflmao, ralph. haha, I can't believe you image googled "cow-on-a-stick". I think my inanity is contagious. you just delighted me beyond measure.

Ok, I'll steal (and credit) this other person's cow-on-a-stick and Hub this thing, but I'm holding you responsible as an accessory to the crime. :D

Iðunn 9 years ago

go look :p

rogue nestling profile image

rogue nestling 9 years ago

Interesting pics. They seem to bare the soul of the subject and create mystery at the same time.

Lengo 7 years ago

Mr. Deeds,

You have a very fine collection of Penn photos. Congratulations! May your collection grow and you continue to share them here.

Many thanks!

lafenty profile image

lafenty 7 years ago from California

Great collection of photos. As a black and white photographer, they give me something to strive for. Really beautiful.

paulgiunta profile image

paulgiunta 7 years ago from Long Beach, CA

I love the Picasso portrait

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

Irving Penn dead at 92.

barranca profile image

barranca 7 years ago

Enjoyed this very much. Muchas Gracias.

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

De nada, hermano.

HubCrafter profile image

HubCrafter 7 years ago from Arizona

It's a wonderful collection; marvelous, the black and whites; the artists, authors, children, stars and mavens.

I love the portraits, how they delve into character with a gesture, like Jean Cocteau. He looks so guarded, sort of pretentious, so dressed. The angles are startling. The coat on the shoulder. The knee made vertical. Amazing, really wonderful, photograph.

Thanks for so many wonderful pictures.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

For more than 30 years Patricia McCabe was the administrative assistant to the photographer Irving Penn. And for more than 30 years, whenever he gave her a present — for Christmas or her birthday or to commemorate a special occasion like the completion of a book project — Penn would choose a print he knew she liked and inscribe it to her on the back, often drawing a heart around or beneath his name.

Ms. McCabe died in 2004, and Penn in October. By the time of her death, she had amassed 67 photographs, which Christie’s will sell in a single-artist sale in New York on April 14. All told, they are expected to fetch $1.3 million to $2 million.

“The collection is a chronology of Penn’s career, beginning with a still life in 1939 and going all the way to a self-portrait he made in 1986,” said Joshua Holdeman, international director of Christie’s photography department. “There are some highly iconic images, like the ‘Cuzco Children,’ and others, like ‘Deli Package,’ that I had never seen before.” NYTimes 1-29-10

Phil Anderson 5 years ago

I don't know how you think that could be Idi Amin.

But, yes, it is probably Papa Doc the notorious Hatiian dictator.

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

Thanks. I was guessing. The person in the photo wasn't identified.


Ich könnte noch Stunden hier damit verbringen die Arbeiten der großen Photographen zu betrachten !

brooke 2 years ago

Raymone Duchateau is Blaise Cendrars' wife.

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 2 years ago Author

Many thanks. I'll adjust the caption.

meltawayyourfat profile image

meltawayyourfat 2 years ago from New York

Amazing photos! love it!

Louis 2 years ago

Your pictures are truly aminazg! You have such an unbelievable talent. do you by nay chance sell your art or take requests, i would love to have one of your pictures on my wall!xo, Spencer

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