Xerjoff Magazine

Irving Penn: not only fashion

Writer

Galleria Cardi in Milan dedicates an exhibition to Irving Penn, one of the greatest photographers of 1900s. Author of over 150 covers of the magazine Vogue, Penn, during his long career, has captured different worlds. For example Italy, a country he visited on several occasions and often portrayed in iconic shots, included in the Milan exhibition.

Galleria Cardi Milano (Corso di Porta Nuova 38) dedicates an exhibition to Irving Penn, whose work has been absent from Italy for 30 years. Born in 1917 in a family of Jewish-Russian origins, Penn, one of the greatest photographers of 1900s, after studying drawing, painting and graphics worked as art director for Junior League Magazine, a job he only held for a short time, having decided to go to Mexico where he started to paint with the aim of becoming a painter. His works didn’t convince him at all, so much so that he got back to New York where he became assistant of Alexander Liberman, art director of the magazine Vogue, at the time involved in a restyling of the aesthetics of the well-known publication. Impressed by the shots taken by Penn in Mexico, Libermann started commissioning him with fashion shootings around the world, thus starting a long collaboration throughout which he shot over 150 covers and created avant-garde editorials, celebrated for their formal simplicity and the use of light.

The huge artistic contribution given by Penn to Vogue is today recognised even by Anna Wintour who highlights how he “radically changed the way how people used to see the world and our perception of beauty”. Indeed, breaking conventions Penn used photography like an artist, expanding the creative potential of this technique in a time where the photographic image was mainly seen as a means of communication. The Milan exhibition develops on three floors of the gallery, including not only fashion photography but also showing the special link with Italy, a country that Penn started visiting in 1940s when he joined the American army engaged to liberate Europe from the Nazis and arrived in Naples. The exhibition, open until 22nd December, includes works produced by the artist between the Forties and the Nineties, offering an exhaustive picture of the themes part of his job: the world of fashion, glamorous images of stars, Italy (to which the entire first floor of the exhibition is dedicated) impressions of the natural world, surreal still life, proving his constant search for authenticity.

Above: Irving Penn, Black and White Vogue Cover (Jean Patchett), 1950 (detail)