Irving Penn



Irving Penn

Past: September 21, 2017 → January 29, 2018


2017 marks the centenary of the birth of Irving Penn (1917-2009), one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century. This exhibition is the first major retrospective of Irving Penn’s work in France since his death. It looks back over the American artist’s seventy-year career. Featuring more than 240 photographic prints, all produced by the artist himself, and a selection of graphic works, the exhibition offers a comprehensive vision of the full range of subjects he tackled in his work: fashion, still life, portraits, nudes, street scenes and his “Small Trades series” photographed at the start of the 1950s in Paris, London and New York, war, beauty, cigarettes and debris. With a fine arts background, Irving Penn developed a body of visual work that is defined by its elegant simplicity, a taste for minimalism and an astonishing rigour, from the studio to the darkroom, where Penn perfected his unique photographic prints.

As visitors proceed through a chronological and thematic tour, they discover the artist’s productions from his early work at the end of the 1930s, to his fashion and still life photography in the 1990s and 2000s. The exhibition opens with street scenes from Philadelphia and New York, images from the southern United States, from Europe devastated by war and his first colour still lifes. At this point, his work moved from the street to the studio, which became the exclusive location for his shoots throughout his career. From 1947 to 1948, he produced portraits of artists, writers, fashion designers and other cultural figures for Vogue magazine, from Charles James and Salvador Dali to Jerome Robbins, Spencer Tracy, Igor Stravinsky and Alfred Hitchcock.

Posted to Paris by Vogue magazine, Penn went on to become a genuine master in the field of fashion photography, producing several of the greatest photographic icons of the 20th century. Many of these are studies of the 1950 couture collections worn by Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, the artist’s wife and muse. In December 1948, he traveled to Cuzco in Peru. There he photographed Inca families who had travelled from the mountains to the city to attend the end of year festivities, as well as workers from Cuzco itself. His photographs of the children of Cuzco have become genuine icons in the history of photography. There follows the “Small Trades series”, photographed in Paris, London, and New York between 1950 and 1951.

Curators: Jeff L. Rosenheim, curator in Charge of the MET Department of Photographs, Maria Morris Hambourg, freelance curator and former Director of the MET Department of Photographs, and Jérôme Neutres, curator and Director of Strategy and Development for the Rmn-Grand Palais.

08 Paris 8 Zoom in 08 Paris 8 Zoom out

3, av du Général Eisenhower

75008 Paris

T. 01 44 13 17 17

Official website

Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau
Franklin D.Roosevelt

Opening hours

The opening hours of the Grand Palais depend on the exhibitions or events that occur there

Admission fee

Full rate €30.00 — Concessions €15.00

The artist

  • Irving Penn