Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, Irving Penn at work in New Guinea, 1970. © The Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn Trust

Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, Irving Penn at work in New Guinea, 1970. © The Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn Trust

 

Chronology


 

1917

Irving Penn is born in Plainfield, New Jersey.

 

1934–38

Attends the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art. Studies design with Alexey Brodovitch, art director at Harper's Bazaar, and works as his assistant.

 

1938

Penn buys his first camera, a Rolleiflex, with earnings from drawings published in the magazine.

 

1938–41

Works in New York as an art director at Junior League magazine and at Saks Fifth Avenue.

 

1941–42

Travels through the American South to Mexico to spend a year painting.

 

Nonny Gardner Penn, Irving Penn, Mexico, 1942. © The Irving Penn Foundation

 

1943

Hired at Vogue by art director Alexander Liberman. He encourages Penn to take his first color photograph, a still life, which becomes the October 1 cover. Penn considered this his beginning as a professional photographer.

 

Irving Penn, Vogue Cover, October 1, 1943. © Condé Nast

 

1944–45

Volunteers with the American Field Service.

 

Irving Penn, Untitled, Italy, 1945. Gelatin silver contact prints. © The Irving Penn Foundation

 

1946–47

Back at Vogue, undertakes extensive portrait series of cultural figures.

 

1948

Travels to France, Italy, Spain, and Peru for Vogue.

After completing fashion editorial in Lima, prolongs stay to make portraits of local people in a daylight studio in Cuzco.

 

1949–50

Photographs a series of nudes which he prints using an experimental process of bleaching and redeveloping.

 

1950

Striking fashion photographs by Penn appear in Vogue. Many of these feature the Swedish model, Lisa Fonssagrives.

She and Penn marry in London, shortly after the Paris couture collections.

 

1950–51

For Small Trades series in Paris, London, and New York, photographs workers with their tools and wares in the studio.

 

Robert Freson, Irving Penn in his studio at 80 West 40th Street, ca. 1954. Courtesy of Robert Freson

 

1952

Begins advertising in addition to editorial work. Moves studio to 80 West 40th Street.

Son, Tom, is born.

 

Kathryn Abbe, Penn Family in Huntington, NY, 1957. © Kathryn Abbe

 

1960

Publishes his first book, Moments Preserved.

First commercial exhibition of his work at Alexander Iolas Gallery.

 

Catalogue for Penn's 1960 Alexandre Iolas exhibition

 

1960s

Continues fashion and portraits for Vogue; begins series of Flowers. Travels for Vogue to Japan and Crete. Beginning of work for Look and Show magazines.

Experiments to develop complex method for printing in platinum and palladium metals.

 

1965

Constructs laboratory in barn on Long Island, NY property.

 

1967

Constructs a portable tent studio for travels.

January 1967, Dahomey (now Benin).
October 1967, Nepal.
January 1968, Cameroon.
May 1970, New Guinea.
May 1971, Morocco.

 

Per Boije, Irving Penn's portable tent studio, Nepal1967. © The Irving Penn Foundation

 

1970s

Pursues photographic projects conceived for platinum-palladium process. 

Cigarettes (1972), exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1975.

Street Material (1975), exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 1977.

Archaeology (1979–80), exhibited at Marlborough Gallery, New York in 1982.

 

1980

Publishes Flowers book.

 

1984–89

"Irving Penn," a retrospective exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, tours widely in the United States and abroad.

Afterwards, Penn resumes painting and drawing in his free time outside a busy studio schedule of editorial and commercial assignments.

 

1986

Begins collaboration with designer Issey Miyake.

Travels to Prague and photographs Cranium Architecture series.

 

Lennart Durehed, Irving Penn photographing in Národni Museum, Prague, 1986. © Lennart Durehed

 

1987

Penn gifts 120 works to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

 

1988

Joins Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York.

 

1990

"Irving Penn: Master Images," retrospective jointly organized by the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C.

 

1991

Publishes Passage: A Work Record.

 

1992

Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn dies in New York.

 

1990–2000

Penn's innovative portraits, still life, fashion and beauty photographs continue to appear regularly in Vogue.

Pursues a number of personal projects and experiments. Still life work flourishes, returns to flowers and nudes as subjects, pursues complex technical experiments with cameras and printing, in addition to painting, drawing, and printing.

 

1995

Penn travels to Paris to photograph the haute couture collections for the last time.

Donates majority of his archives and 130 fine art prints to the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

Spread with Mouth (for L'Oréal) and Irving Penn Studio Technical Sheet for Issey Miyake, December 12, 1990 (part of donated archive), from Irving Penn: A Career in Photography (1997)

 

1997

"Irving Penn: A Career in Photography" retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

2000

Underfoot series.

 

2002

"Earthly Bodies: Irving Penn Nudes, 1949–50" exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Simultaneously, "Dancer: 1999 Nudes" exhibition held at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

 

2004

Publishes A Notebook at Random.

Photographs his 165th Vogue cover.

 

2005

Establishes The Irving Penn Foundation.

 

Returns to flowers as a photographic subject.

2006

 

2007

Vessels series.

 

2009

Irving Penn dies at his home in New York, at the age of 92.

 

Vasilios Zatse, Irving Penn at work for Vogue, New York, 2006. © Vasilios Zatse