Irving Penn (1917-2009) was born in Plainfield, New Jersey. From 1934–38, he studied design with Alexey Brodovitch at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art. Following a year painting in Mexico, he returned to New York City and began working at Vogue magazine in 1943, where Alexander Liberman was art director.
Penn photographed for Vogue and commercial clients in America and abroad for nearly 70 years. Whether an innovative fashion image, striking portrait or compelling still life, each of Penn’s pictures bears his trademark style of elegant aesthetic simplicity.
In addition to his editorial and advertising work, Penn was also a master printmaker. Beginning in 1964, he pioneered a complex technique for making platinum-palladium prints, a 19th century print process to which he applied 20th century materials.
The first retrospective of Penn’s work was organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1984. Following the landmark exhibition, he resumed painting and drawing as a full-fledged creative endeavor. Until his death in 2009, his innovative photographs continued to appear regularly inVogue, and his studio was busy with assignments and experimental personal work.
Recent exhibitions include Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. (2015-16) and Irving Penn: Centennial at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2017).