Irving Penn, ‘Poppy: Burgundy, New York’, 1968, Phillips

When Irving Penn began photographing flowers in the 1960s, he approached them as he did his most famous fashion images of the time- photographing them in the studio, isolated against white backdrops and, further, removed from any reference to the garden in which they were grown. But his familiar approach belied a blissful unfamiliarity with the subject. Indeed, as he notes in his introduction to Flowers, Penn found liberty in working with a subject that was so foreign to him: “it has left me free to react with simple pleasure just to form and color, without being diverted by considerations of rarity or tied to the convention that a flower must be photographed at its moment of unblemished, nubile perfection.” The knowledge Penn may have lacked in his subject matter is more than compensated by his mastery in the studio with every detail from the billowing edges of the poppy to the intricate rings of its stamen meticulously captured by his lens. Perhaps using the stages of the flower's life as an analogy for the passing seasons and the coming new year, Penn's flowers graced the pages of the holiday issues of American Vogue from 1967-1973.
Courtesy of Phillips

One from an edition of 20.

Signature: Signed, initialed, titled, dated in ink, Condé Nast copyright credit reproduction limitation, credit and edition stamps on the reverse of the flush-mount.

Harmony, Irving Penn: Flowers, p. 14

Hamburg Kennedy Photographs, New York

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

Masters Projects, 
Irving Penn: Women, Warriors
Irving Penn: Cranium Architecture
Irving Penn: Cigarettes

Group Shows

Getty Museum, 
Los Angeles, CA, USA,
Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography, 1911–2011
View Artist's CV