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Flash News: Irving Penn in Paris – Jacques Truphémus

[22 Sep 2017]

Irving Penn in Paris

There is a true American flavour to the Parisian art scene this autumn, with no less than five exhibitions travelling from the other side of the Atlantic. Major New York museums have decided to export part of their collections to Paris. MoMA will present a selection of masterpieces at the Vuitton Foundation, while the Maillol Museum will play host to a superb collection of Pop Art from the Whitney Museum. The MET is also providing works for two exhibitions. The first is co-organised with the Palace of Versailles, a venue often hosting Franco-American events.

The major New York museum is also partnering with the Grand Palais to celebrate the centenary of Irving Penn’s birth. It is the first major retrospective organised in France since the photographer’s death in 2009. After being shown at the MET from April to June, the exhibition that has just opened in Paris retraces the 70-year career of the artist from the late 1930s to the early 2000s. As Irving Penn has never authorized any exhibition prints, all the photographs on show at the Grand Palais have been originally printed by the photographer himself.

The name of Irving Penn immediately brings to mind the portraits of his muse and wife Lisa Fonssagrives, as well as Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn and Alfred Hitchcock. Remaining faithful to studio photography, Irving Penn created, for each portrait, a true intimate relationship with his model, which became his trademark. Having started his career before museums recognised photography as an artistic discipline, he always considered himself as an artist and was very attached to the visual dimension of his work, using various techniques, some of which were extremely sophisticated, such as platinum prints. Jérôme Neutres, curator of the exhibition, thus wanted to reconstruct part of Penn’s New York studio, with the artist’s own tools, including the mythical curtain that served as a backdrop for his portraits, as well as several cameras he had built himself.

This retrospective indeed explores all the facets of his art. The photos of fashion and fashion shows from his Vogue period hang alongside the socio-cultural photos taken during his travels: Andean peasants, Asaro warriors and the Parisian working class are caught on camera. His portraits of celebrities, artists and writers, psychologically intense yet infinitely simple, implicitly reveal his vision of photography as a means of personal expression.

Primarily collected in the United States, Irving Penn has not often been exhibited in France. This major retrospective could very well revive the interest of the European market in the artist, and the French public will soon be able to acquire about twenty of his photographs, which will be put on sale at Phillip’s on 3 October and at Christie’s NY the following week!

Jacques Truphémus (1922-2017)

The regulars at the Café Bellecour in Lyon will long remember his hunched figure and his crooked smile. Jacques Truphémus passed away on 8 September at the age of 94. Considered by many to be THE greatest Lyon painter, Jacques Truphémus was nevertheless a model of discretion. In 1986, Balthus himself wrote to the painter: « You belong to an endangered species! You see as a painter. And you live through your painting. You belong to the line of Morandi and some of your landscapes make me think of Giacometti – while being essentially Truphémus – that is to say unique. You must know how grateful I am for you being you. » What better compliment for an artist?

Born in Grenoble, he came to Lyon to study at the School of Fine Arts. The war interrupted his studies, which he completed in 1946. After a two-year stay in Paris, he settled permanently in Lyon. In his studio on the Rue Clotilde Bizolon in Ainay, he painted his adopted city, its bridges, its bistros and its inhabitants, including many portraits of his wife Aimée. But he also escaped from it, painting memories of his travels or nature in the Cevennes. Without any showy effects, his paintings depict intimacy and solitude where forms and volumes seem to dissolve in the silence of the canvas. Light and colour play a major role in his paintings, as, in his own words, light reveals a feeling of space but even more so, emotion. He knew how to capture the subdued atmosphere and the diffused light on the banks of the Saône. Colour came later, when the artist was working in the foothills of the Cevennes in summer. His palette expanded and brightened, with bright reds, warm yellows and stunning purples.

Parisian gallerist Claude Bernard has represented Jacques Truphémus for many years and, in France, his work is mainly sold through auction houses in Lyon.

The Musée Hébert in Grenoble chose a well-suited title for its exhibition: « Jacques Truphémus. A contre-Lumière » (Against the Light), running until 16 November 2017, as a final tribute to the famous local artist.

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