Until December 31, Palazzo Grassi in Venice holds “Irving Penn, Resonance”, the first major exhibition in Italy dedicated to this unique figure in fashion photography. I can get obsessed by anything if I look at it long enough. That’s the curse of being a photographer” (Irving Penn).

The exhibition is a collection of more than 100 photographs that explore the artist’s full spectrum of themes, with works that differ in subject, matter and period of time, taken between the end of the 1940s and the mid-1980s.

Photographers owe Penn a debt of gratitude, but perhaps his real gift, his greatest legacy, is what he did for fashion. His spare and elegant images have become the standard of contemporary fashion photography, being a pioneer at placing models against a plain background and putting fashion first, forcing the reader to focus on the garment.

black and white vogue

Black & White Vogue Cover © Irving Penn / Irving Penn Foundation. Source: moussemagazine.it

A Boa

A Boa © Irving Penn / Irving Penn Foundation. Source: new4amagazine.com

Pablo Picasso, Truman Capote, Marlene Dietrich and a young Marilyn Monroe all posed for Penn. But his aim was to underline the brevity of human existence, whether affluent or resourceless, famous or unknown. He also immortalised newspaper men, street vendors, rag dealers, chimney sweeps. Another example is the ethnographic photographs of the people of Dahomey (from the 1960s) and of tribesmen from New Guinea and Morocco (from the 1960s and 1970s).

Truman Capote by Irving Penn 1965-773775

Truman Capote © Irving Penn / Irving Penn Foundation. Source: itfashion.com

Woody Allen

Woody Allen © Irving Penn / Irving Penn Foundation. Source: loeildelaphotographie.com

Another highlight of the exhibition is his still life photography from late 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, composed of cigarette ends, fruit dishes, bones, as well as animal skulls photographed at the Narodni National Museum in Prague in 1986 for the series “Cranium Architecture”.


Ripe Cheese, 1992 © Irving Penn / Irving Penn Foundation. Source: http://contessanally.blogspot.co.uk/

penn1-e1397619194571 2 guardianlv

Isabella Rossellini © Irving Penn / Irving Penn Foundation. Source: http://guardianlv.com/


A unique opportunity to explore Penn in a spectacular setting.