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A beetle in a model's ear. Photographer/artist Irving Penn has passed on.
October 7, 2009 6:22 PM   Subscribe

"The quest to undercut fashion’s standards of perfection, and to find beauty in the disdained, overlooked or overripe, runs throughout Mr. Penn’s career. In an otherwise pristine still life of food, he included a house fly, and in a 1959 close-up, he placed a beetle in a model’s ear." So long, Irving Penn.
posted by flapjax at midnite (20 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by blaneyphoto at 6:35 PM on October 7, 2009


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posted by Sys Rq at 6:47 PM on October 7, 2009


^0.0^
posted by adipocere at 6:51 PM on October 7, 2009


Modern commercial photography owes everything to this man. His vision set the tone for all that came after.

But the thing that affected me the most from that beautiful obituary:

"He was also a refined conversationalist and a devoted husband and friend."

May you all live to be 92, and sign off with with an epitaph like that.

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posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 7:18 PM on October 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


he placed a beetle in a model’s ear

Sick 'em, Rex!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:21 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by ericb at 8:25 PM on October 7, 2009


I sometimes felt, looking at his fashion photography, that he felt a kinship with the formalism and precision in fashion, but at the same time felt irritation with its fussiness, mannerism and trendfollowing.

Many of his best pictures tend to balance conflicts like these, but without becoming obvious or jokey. One of my favorite photos by him are the still lives of a half-dozen bricks of frozen vegetables, still crystalline and barely looking like food at all, more like art brut sculpture. They were beautiful and weirdly appetizing.
posted by ardgedee at 8:29 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


His "corner portraits": Marcel Duchamp | Tanaquil LeClerc, w/ members of The Ballet Society, including George Balanchine | Igor Stravinsky | Truman Capote | Georgia O'Keeffe -- among many others.
posted by ericb at 8:35 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


And there's always his iconic commercial photographs for Clinique Men (1985) -- 1 | 2.
posted by ericb at 8:38 PM on October 7, 2009


Current exhibition at The Getty (L.A.) -- Irving Penn: Small Trades (September 9, 2009 - January 10, 2010).
posted by ericb at 8:42 PM on October 7, 2009


Art review: 'Irving Penn: Small Trades' at J. Paul Getty Museum.
posted by ericb at 8:43 PM on October 7, 2009


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posted by patrick rhett at 8:47 PM on October 7, 2009


Gaze upon one subject's lush torso. Sloping belly. Rump. The dark cloud between her legs. The lens of Penn's camera drinks in her Rubenesque flesh like water. Think of Irving Penn as a very thirsty man. In fact, model Dorian Leigh (pal of Truman Capote and the inspiration for Holly Golightly) reports that every time she slept with Penn, in the mid-'40s, he'd gulp down bottled water afterward. "Sex dehydrated him," she explained. How thirsty Penn must have been photographing those big women!
Irving Penn's nudes.
posted by tellurian at 9:11 PM on October 7, 2009


Irv was my hero.
posted by DaddyNewt at 9:46 PM on October 7, 2009


Thanks for everything, Mr. Penn. You taught me so much.

God, it's a first for me, but I'm now starting to regret the passage of time. It's bullshit to have to wave goodbye to the giants, the mentors of my youth.
posted by heyho at 10:00 PM on October 7, 2009


It's bullshit to have to wave goodbye to the giants...

As we ourselves get older, acceptance of the passing of time and the people we love and admire is probably key to our sense of happiness, well-being and spiritual fulfillment.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:06 PM on October 7, 2009


acceptance of the passing of time and the people we love and admire is probably key to our sense of happiness

That's complete bullshit. Our sense of happiness is entirely determined by how many beetles we've stuck in a model's ear. Let my friends and family die around me... I'm sticking it out until I've stuck my first beetle.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:26 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Often, when one looks at an artist's work, you think "I've seen this before." Usually, this is because the artist's vision has been built upon the work of others that have gone before.

In Penn's work, you also have that feeling...that you've seen it before. Only, with Penn, this is because his IS the work that others have built their visions upon.

His work has been an influence to all visual artists.

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posted by Thorzdad at 4:25 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not that familiar with Penn, but there's a long-standing tradition in classic painting to include a fly somewhere in a still-life, as a painterly way of showing off your skill. I've been trying to find a reference to this, but it was something I was told on a museum tour in London years ago and never forgot, and can't find an easy cite online.

This isn't a slight on the man at all, but I wonder if the fly in the still life was more of a nod toward the grand masters of the former medium than part of an overall theme in his own work.
posted by Shepherd at 5:43 AM on October 8, 2009


Then again, sometimes a housefly is just a housefly. In any event, houseflies don't take direction well, so good on him.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:47 PM on October 8, 2009


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