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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.

Irving Penn Photo Collection Auction at Christies NY April 15

  • N.Y. Times 1-29-09--67 Penn Photos to be Auctioned April 15
    Patricia McCabe died in 2004, and Penn in October. By the time of her death, she had amassed 67 photographs, which Christies 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.

Marcel Duchamp


10-07-08 NYTimes Irving Penn Dead at 92

  • Irving Penn Dead at 92
    Irving Penn, one of the 20th century's most influential photographers of fashion and the famous, whose signature blend of classical elegance and cool minimalism was recognizable to magazine readers and museum goers worldwide, died at 92.

10-19-09 Adam Gopnik on Irving Penn in the New Yorker

  • Irving Penn : The New Yorker
    Adam Gopnik remembers Irving Penn. Penn was an instinctive popular classicist, with a magical gift for visual rhythm, for making something insignificant insignificant...look as inevitable as an 18th century still life.

Richard Avedon portrait by Irving Penn


Pablo Picasso


Marlene Dietrich


"The Exalted, Captured But Not Bowed" by Karen Rosenberg in the NYTimes 1-18-08

"Close Encournters Slide Show" courtesy of the NYTimes

Irving Penn "Platinum Prints"


Irving Penn wikibio

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


Irving Penn Among the Great Masters

James VanDerZee, Harlem Photographer

James VanDerZee, Harlem Photographer

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


11-19-09 The NY Review of Books--"The Mighty Penn" by Martin Fuller

  • The Mighty Penn by Martin Fuller
    Penn was assured a high place in the canon of photography well before his death at the age of 92. For those of us who came of age during the 60s, he seemed the Apollonian counterpart of his Dionysian contemporary and competitor, Richard Avedon.

4-11-02 The NY Review of Books "Nudes Without Desire" by Janet Malcolm

  • "Nudes Without Desire" by Janet Malcolm
    The mystery of the 6-year unconsummated marriage of John Ruskin and Effie Gray, annulled in 1854, after Effie revealed to her father that Ruskin had still not '[made] me his Wife.' He had imagined women were quite different from what he saw I was."

Famous American Photographers

Irving Penn--Wiki Bio


Louis on December 18, 2014:

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

Inga from New York on March 06, 2014:

Amazing photos! love it!

Ralph Deeds (author) from Birmingham, Michigan on March 06, 2014:

Many thanks. I'll adjust the caption.

brooke on March 05, 2014:

Raymone Duchateau is Blaise Cendrars' wife.

RÜDIGER TRAUTSCH on March 26, 2013:

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

Ralph Deeds (author) from Birmingham, Michigan on February 05, 2011:

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

Phil Anderson on February 05, 2011:

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 (author) from Birmingham, Michigan on January 29, 2010:

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

HubCrafter from Arizona on January 17, 2010:

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 (author) from Birmingham, Michigan on October 13, 2009:

De nada, hermano.

barranca on October 09, 2009:

Enjoyed this very much. Muchas Gracias.

Ralph Deeds (author) from Birmingham, Michigan on October 07, 2009:

Irving Penn dead at 92.

paulgiunta from Long Beach, CA on October 03, 2009:

I love the Picasso portrait

lafenty from California on July 21, 2009:

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

Lengo on April 11, 2009:

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!

rogue nestling on January 19, 2008:

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

Iðunn on January 19, 2008:

go look :p

Iðunn on January 19, 2008:

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

Ralph Deeds (author) from Birmingham, Michigan on January 19, 2008:

Here's a cow on a stick. http://www.barbaraarcher.com/artists/truett/img/mt...

Iðunn on January 19, 2008:

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 (author) from Birmingham, Michigan on January 19, 2008:

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

Iðunn on January 19, 2008:

sorry for disrupting your artistic flow, ralph :(

Iðunn on January 19, 2008:

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. :|

Ralph Deeds (author) from Birmingham, Michigan on January 19, 2008:

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.

shyamchat from Calcutta on January 19, 2008:

Amazing ! simply amazing!!

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

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 18, 2008:

Amazing photos. So glad to get a look.

Iounn - Cow on a stick???

AuraGem from Victoria, Australia on January 18, 2008:

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

stanskill from Greensburg, PA on January 18, 2008:

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

C.M. Vanderlinden from Metro Detroit on January 18, 2008:

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

Iðunn on January 18, 2008:

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 :)

Ashok Rajagopalan from Chennai on January 18, 2008:

Loved the slide show. What power!

Had seen only the Cocteau and Picasso before.

Many thanks, Ralph!

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