Pablo Picasso at La Californie, Cannes, 1957
Platinum-palladium print, printed 1978. 19 5/8 x 19 1/2 in. (49.8 x 49.5 cm). Signed, titled 'Picasso', dated, numbered 26/45 in pencil, copyright credit reproduction limitation and edition stamps on the reverse of the aluminum flush-mount.
PROVENANCE Hamiltons Gallery, London
LITERATURE Kearney, Irving Penn: Portraits, n.p.; Knopf, Irving Penn: Passage, p. 125; Szarkowski, Irving Penn, pl. 17; Taschen, 20th Century Photography, p. 483; Westerbeck, Irving Penn: A Career in Photography, pl. 64
Irving Penn's vision adhered to the principles and strengths in photography, especially with regards to clarity, illumination, and linearity. As early as 1947, Penn began repudiating the pictorialist modes in photography—be it fashion or portraiture—by eschewing lavish interiors and contrived narratives. Thereby, Penn permitted the clothes (in the former genre) and the individuals (in the latter) to assume the central role, prompting viewers to focus on the essence within the garment or the sitter, of which John Szarkowski has noted, "[Penn's photographs] are not stories, but simply pictures." Penn rejected the notion that portraits ought to be set within a context that readily identified the sitters—writers at their desk; singers at a hall; thespians in front of a draped velvet curtain; or artists at their studio, and layer by layer, peeled off the common traps that detracted from the point of focus. In fact, it was Penn's studio—not a lavish mansion, or a Louis XV boudoir, or a Victorian library—that became the sole space within which sitters were photographed. From the late 1940's and throughout the 1950's, Penn continuously simplified his portraits, gradually removing the corners he had used in his elegant portraits of such notables as seen in Duchess of Windsor, New York, May 27,1947 (Lot 198), or the carpeted platform used in such playful portraits as seen in Max Weber, 1950, (Lot 18). By 1957, the year the present lot, Pablo Picasso at La Californie, Cannes, was taken, Penn had stripped away not only any gratuitous props but also any bodily references or gestures that could have compromised the unique individuality of the famed Spanish artist, by then already established as one of the art world's most luminary Ÿgures.The close-up portrait is skillfully and almost perfectly centered by Picasso's cyclopean eye, paying homage to the Cubist style that he was instrumental in popularizing. References to the style, in fact, abound in the photograph: the strong tonal contrasts, the cape slicing the face at an unconventional angle, the abstraction of the ear, the different lines dissecting the plain; the portrait is far more akin to Picasso's gris-toned Buste de Femme, 1956, than any of Penn's other portraits. It becomes more of a probable self-visualization by Picasso rather than a regimented projection by the photographer of how a portrait should be. Ultimately, Pablo Picasso at La Californie, Cannes, is a carefully nuanced souvenir commemorating the legacy of not one, but two great masters, both delicately revealing themselves through different sides of the same lens.