Irving Penn, ‘Butchers, Paris’, 1950-printed 1976, Phillips

From the Catalogue:
A true legend, Irving Penn transformed twentieth-century studio photography. Working across numerous photographic processes, diverse cultures, and distinctive subjects, each and every photograph by Penn is rendered with elegant simplicity and supreme beauty. We are delighted this season to offer an exciting selection of works by Irving Penn that pay homage to his brilliance, range, and unwavering vision. Featuring Small Trades, Vogue editorials, still-lifes, and arresting portraits, this selection spans just over 50 years of Penn’s career and includes photographs taken in New York, Paris, Cannes, Morocco, and New Guinea. Masterfully employing several photographic mediums throughout his lifetime, Penn was an exquisite printmaker, a fact reflected in the diversity of mediums on offer here, including; platinum palladium, gelatin silver, dye destruction, and Fujicolor Crystal Archive.

The present lot, Butchers, Paris, 1950 comes from Penn’s iconic Small Trades series, a collection of striking studio portraits taken in Paris, London, and New York featuring tradespeople in their working clothes. According to Penn, Alexander Liberman, the art director at Vogue who first hired Penn in 1943, “inspired me with the idea of doing a series of pictures of the small trades in the tradition of the ‘Petits Métiers’ of Paris past… A steady stream of workmen, street vendors, and fringe Parisians climbed the six flights to the studio, where they waited their turn to pose between pictures of couture and portrait sittings of the distinguished.” Through his sensitive eye and exquisite execution, Penn’s socially and economically disparate subjects are rendered as aesthetic equals in front of the artist’s signature backdrop.

For additional works by Irving Penn, see lots 298, 311-314, 317, 350, and 351.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: Signed, titled 'Bouchers', dated, initialed, numbered 15/33 and annotated in pencil, Condé Nast copyright credit and edition stamps on the verso.

Visages et métiers de Paris,' French Vogue, June 1951
Heckert and Lacoste, Irving Penn: Small Trades, pl. 167
Penn, Moments Preserved, p. 175
Penn, Passage: A Work Record, p. 89
Szarkowski, Irving Penn, pl. 88

Private Collection, Chicago

About Irving Penn

Considered one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, Irving Penn photographed a host of important writers, visual artists, and cultural figures in his lifetime (including Jasper Johns, Pablo Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico, John Cage, Truman Capote, and Louise Bourgeois) as well as producing images for Vogue, Chanel, and other major fashion mainstays. Known for his pared-down compositional style, Penn often photographed his subjects in the natural light of the studio using minimal props; his fashion images were marked by their austerity, sophistication, and tonal subtleties. Penn also photographed workers his series “Small Trades” (1950–51), depicting laborers in New York, Paris, and London posed in work clothes and holding the tools of their trade. Caught in both black and white and color, Penn’s iconic images are known for the honesty and humanity he brought to his subjects.

American, 1917-2009, Plainfield, New Jersey, based in New York, New York

Solo Shows

2016
Masters Projects, 
Brooklyn,
Irving Penn: Women, Warriors
2013
London,
Irving Penn: Cranium Architecture
2012
London,
Irving Penn: Cigarettes
View Artist's CV