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Beyond Beauty

― In search of an illusory

The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington is the American temple for art in every form. Famous for its collections, it is customary for it to organise exhibitions that redefine the concept of “event”, such as its latest initiative being held from October 23, 2015 to March 20, 2016: Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty.

The works of Irving Penn (Plainfield, June 16, 1917 – New York, October 7, 2009) – one of the most eclectic and admired photographers in the world – are analysed
over time and through the various genres by which he expressed himself, with 146 photos from the museum’s permanent collection, including 100 that were recently
donated by The Irving Penn Foundation. There are portraits of Le Courbusier, Dalì, Truman Capote; scenes of daily life in 1930’s America; and the historic campaigns of Dior, Rochas, Issey Miyake, and Balenciaga.

Visitors will also be able to admire the artist at work thanks to a Super 8 film, which has never been seen before, of the artist in Morocco, filmed by his model wife Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn.

Irving Penn was one of the first photographers to cross the limit between fashion images and artistic photography unscathed, succeeding so well that he is known both in the
fashion industry and in the world of fine art photography. He began with fashion in 1943 with a very famous Vogue cover that depicted a still life of accessories (the first of
more than 150 that he would take over the course of his career), and then moved on to dedicating himself to news photography, portraits, and still lifes, which were almost
always all connected by being taken against a neutral background that was in contrast with the subject, in studied poses, in the search for an illusory stability.

His was a recognisable and glamourous, yet classic, style but with strong graphic influences, in which the spasmodic attention to formal construction, the use of lights in the
creation of chiaroscuro effects and strong contrasts give the images an austere and geometric simplicity that makes them unique in addition to being beautiful.