one day at a time…
Sunday, 04 July 2004

Paying Art Homage To Irving Penn
CREDIT: © John Dean Neff [photo: Chris Trice]/Illinois Arts Council
Thumbnail click, and link, pop-up source web pages.

Irving Penn © John Dean NeffIn yesterday's item on Jim McGuire, we mentioned his use of a canvas background. This brought correspondence from an Australian reader, who also thoughtfully corrected our embarrassingly incorrect spelling of Johnny Cash's first name.

Jim does indeed use canvas, and if you check his personal page, you will find it results from his admiration for Irving Penn (b.1917), and in particular a series of Penn images of members of the Hell's Angels Daly City Chapter. They have an interesting gallery, but they have never looked as good as they did for Penn.

On the web, you may visit three [1][2][3] overviews of Penn's career. Masters of Photography has a fourth overview, and also a gallery with sixteen [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8 female nude] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] examples to illustrate Penn's range. Salon.com offers two pages on Penn's allegedly Rubenesque female nudes of 1949, and includes a disappointingly brief gallery, claiming."We have permission to show you the ones most petite." For some reason Penn's chunky nudes seem to attract such coyness, though the flaunting sexuality of some of his fashion work seems to have been more accepted.

Images [2] and [6] in the Masters of Photography gallery, illustrate another well known Penn series. Taking two theatrical 'flats' (wooden frames covered in stretched canvas, used by theater stage set builders), Penn joined them at an acute angle. He put a series of famous people into the narrow confines of the space he had created. Examples may be seen: Lynn Powell Dougherty has a piece on Lynn's Classic Movie Favorites about Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, which includes Penn's portrait of Spencer; Truman Capote may be found on ArtStomp.com; Marcel Duchamp appears in the Cairo weekly Al-Ahram; but regrettably we were unable to find portraits of Artur Rubinstein, or Georgia O'Keefe, from the same series.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the canvas flats project has been highly regarded. Our thumbnail for today is an art piece by John Dean Neff: check out the Illinois Arts Council, Artist Fellowship Program 2002 for details, including the work and its context. Two German language sites [we checked a Google translation, but found nothing in the text of a compelling nature] take up Penn's flats idea; we leave you to judge [1][2] results for yourself - but we did find Rubinstein, and Tracy in a different pose, with a smile this time!

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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)