Irving Penn photographs donated to Smithsonian


A set of 100 photographs by the late Irving Penn is being donated to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington.

The photos, which are being given by the Irving Penn Foundation, include rare street photographs dating from the 1930s and ‘40s, images of post-war Europe, and portraits of celebrated figures including Truman Capote, Agnes de Mille and Langston Hughes.

The Smithsonian said all of the prints in the set were created while Penn was alive and were personally approved by him. The museum said it will organize an exhibition devoted to Penn, consisting of approximately 160 works, that will open in the fall of 2015, followed by a tour.


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Among the works in the recent gift are fashion photos, color prints made for magazine editorials and commercial advertising, and self-portraits of Penn.

Though he is famous for his fashion photography for Vogue magazine, Penn created a diverse body of work that encompassed art and commercial photography, often blurring the distinction between the two categories.

His photos are in the collections of major art institutions, including the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Smithsonian.

“My father’s fondness and highest regard for our national museums has guided us in making this donation,” Tom Penn, executive director of the Irving Penn Foundation, said in a statement.

Penn died in 2009 in New York at the age of 92. (His younger brother, Arthur Penn, the director of “Bonnie and Clyde” and other films, died a year later.)

During his lifetime, Irving Penn donated more than 100 photographs to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. The two museums organized a joint exhibition in 1990, titled “Irving Penn: Master Images.”


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