Happy Birthday Edward Hopper

Today is the 132nd birthday of the artist Edward Hopper.

NAME: Edward Hopper
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: July 22, 1882
DEATH DATE: May 15, 1967
PLACE OF BIRTH: Nyack, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Artist Edward Hopper is the painter behind the iconic late-night diner scene Nighthawks (1942).

Edward Hopper was born in 1882, in NY, into a middle class family, which encouraged the art work and career that he wanted to pursue. From 1900 to 1906 he studied at the NY School of Art, and while in school, shifted from illustration to works of fine art. Upon completing his schooling, he worked as an illustrator for a short period of time; once this career path ended, he made three international trips, which had a great influence on the future of his work, and the type of art he would engage in during the course of his career. He made three trips to Europe between 1906 and 1910. In retrospect, Europe meant France, and more specifically, Paris, for Edward Hopper. This city , its architecture, light, and art tradition, decisively affected his development.

When he arrived in 1906, Paris was the artistic center of the Western world; no other city was as important for the development of modern art. The move toward abstract painting was already underway; Cubism had begun. There, in 1907, Picasso painted his legendary Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Hopper, however, later maintained that when he was in Paris he never heard of Picasso, who was to become so important for the development of modern literature. For Hopper, the encounter with Impressionism was decisive. The light in these paintings and the thematic treatment of architecture and nature particularly attracted him and were to influence all of his work. His reaction to the Impressionists is directly reflected in his own art. He forgot the dark, Old Master-like interiors of his New York student days, when he was influenced mainly by the great European artists – Goya, Caravaggio, El Greco, and Diego Velazquez. The influence of Impressionists, like Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, is directly reflected in his own art. His palette lit up and he began to paint with light and quick strokes. Even in 1962, he could say, “I think I’m still an Impressionist.”
In 1910 Hopper returned to the United States, never to leave North America again. During the 1910s, Edward Hopper struggled quite a bit to gain any recognition for the works he had created. During this period a number of his works were distributed through various shows and exhibits in New York, but very little, if any attention, was given to his pieces. Oil painting was a focal point of the work he had done, but a majority of the sales he made during this period, was for works he had created doing etching work and murals.

At the age of 37, Edward Hopper received his first open invitation to do a one person exhibit, featuring some of this finest pieces of art. 16 pieces of his work were shown at the Whitney Club, and although none of the pieces were sold at this exhibit, it did point his career in a new direction, it got his art work out to the general public, and he became a more notable name in the type of work and the art forms which he most wanted to focus his career on, for the future works he would create.

A few years later, Edward Hopper found his career had taken a turn for the better, and he was doing well in sales, and financially with the works he had created. He was invited to do a second one person exhibit, to feature new works, and to create a buzz about the work he had created in recent years. The Frank KM Rehn Gallery in NYC, was where this second exhibit took place, and it received far more attention and a much larger crowd, due to the location where the exhibit was taking place, and also because of the fact that more people were now aware of the works Edward Hopper had created.

House by the Railroad, was a famous painting created by the artist, which was the first work to be acquired for the Museum of Modern Art, which had only recently been opened for general viewing. Strongly defined lighting, clearly defined lines, and cropped viewpoints, were some of the features which this art work captured; and, this embodied the style in which Edward Hopper would use later on in his career, and with the future works that he would produce during the course of his career as an artist.

In 1923, Edward Hopper married a fellow student who attended the NY Academy where he got his education, Josephine Nivision. Not only did she pose for nearly half of the female figure pieces which he created during his career, she also encouraged and pushed him to engage in different art forms during his career as well. She pushed him to work with water colors, and she kept records of all the pieces he designed, the exhibits he was to be a part of, and all of the sales of the pieces which were made, during these exhibits in which his work was presented.

In 1933, Edward Hopper received further praises for the works he had done, and for a piece that was on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. His highly identifiable style, and mature painting styles, were some things he had become known for during this period. The gorgeous landscapes, the quiet rooms and empty rooms he designed, and the transitory effect which many of his works posed, created a sense of contemporary life and a new style, which many in the art world recognized, and many praised him for this distinct style he had created in his art forms.

In Edward Hopper’s most famous piece, Nighthawks, there are four customers and a waiter, who are in a brightly lit diner at night. It was a piece created during a wartime; and many believe that their disconnect with the waiter, and with the external world, represent the feelings of many Americans during this period, because of the war. The piece was set up in 1942, in the Art Institute of Chicago, and was seen by many people while it was on exhibit for a show.

Between the 1930s and 1950s, Edward Hopper and his wife spent quite a bit of time, and most of their summers, visiting Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In many of the works that Hopper created during this period, many of the scenes, the common locations, and nearby attractions which they visited, were often seen in the art forms that he created during his career. He also started to travel further out, and visited regions from Vermont out to Charleston, in order to add more new points of interest to his collection, and to broaden the works and the locations which he would include in many of the images that he created over the course of his career.

Later in his career, many of his works were displayed in various exhibits, namely at the Whitney Museum, which was located in New York City. Later in his career, during the 1940s, was a period in which he found the most commercial success. But, soon after, and even during this time period, he began losing critical favors. This was namely due to the new forms of art, and the fact that abstract pieces were beginning to enter the art world, which took over the work he did, as well as the work of many famous artists prior to him.

His choices of subject matter – particularly the places he painted – seem to have been somewhat unpredictable, since they were part of his constant battle with the chronic boredom that often stifled his urge to paint. This is what kept Hopper on the move – his search for inspiration, least painfully found in the stimulation of new surroundings. As he explained to one critic:

“To me the most important thing is the sense of going on. You know how beautiful things are when you’re traveling.”

In the 1940s and 1950s, Hopper found himself losing critical favor in the wake of Abstract Expressionism. Among the new vanguard art movement emerged in the early 1940s, artists such as Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko advanced audacious formal inventions in a search for significant content. By breaking away from accepted conventions in both technique and subject matter, those artists made monumentally scaled works that stood as reflections of their individual psyches, and attempted to tap into universal inner sources. Even during this era of national prosperity and cultural optimism, Edward Hopper’s art continued to suggest that the individual could still suffer a powerful sense of isolation in post-war America. Hopper never lacked popular appeal, however, and by the time of his death in 1967, Hopper had been reclaimed as a major influence by a new generation of American realist artists.

Happy Birthday Ernest Hemingway

Today is the 115th birthday of Ernest Hemingway.

NAME: Ernest Hemingway
OCCUPATION: Author
BIRTH DATE: July 21, 1899
DEATH DATE: July 2, 1961
EDUCATION: Oak Park and River Forest High School
PLACE OF BIRTH: Cicero (now in Oak Park), Illinois
PLACE OF DEATH: Ketchum, Idaho

BEST KNOWN FOR: Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway is seen as one of the great American 20th century novelists, and is known for works like A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea.

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Cicero (now in Oak Park), Illinois. Clarence and Grace Hemingway raised their son in this conservative suburb of Chicago, but the family also spent a great deal of time in northern Michigan, where they had a cabin. It was there that the future sportsman learned to hunt, fish and appreciate the outdoors.

In high school, Hemingway worked on his school newspaper, Trapeze and Tabula, writing primarily about sports. Immediately after graduation, the budding journalist went to work for the Kansas City Star, gaining experience that would later influence his distinctively stripped-down prose style.

He once said, “On the Star you were forced to learn to write a simple declarative sentence. This is useful to anyone. Newspaper work will not harm a young writer and could help him if he gets out of it in time.”

In 1918, Hemingway went overseas to serve in World War I as an ambulance driver in the Italian Army. For his service, he was awarded the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery, but soon sustained injuries that landed him in a hospital in Milan.

There he met a nurse named Agnes von Kurowsky, who soon accepted his proposal of marriage, but later left him for another man. This devastated the young writer but provided fodder for his works “A Very Short Story” and, more famously, A Farewell to Arms.

Still nursing his injury and recovering from the brutalities of war at the young age of 20, he returned to the United States and spent time in northern Michigan before taking a job at the Toronto Star.

It was in Chicago that Hemingway met Hadley Richardson, the woman who would become his first wife. The couple married and quickly moved to Paris, where Hemingway worked as a foreign correspondent for the Star.

In Paris, Hemingway soon became a key part of what Gertrude Stein would famously call “The Lost Generation.” With Stein as his mentor, Hemingway made the acquaintance of many of the great writers and artists of his generation, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso and James Joyce. In 1923, Hemingway and Hadley had a son, John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway. By this time the writer had also begun frequenting the famous Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain.

In 1925, the couple, joining a group of British and American expatriates, took a trip to the festival that would later provided the basis of Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises. The novel is widely considered Hemingway’s greatest work, artfully examining the postwar disillusionment of his generation.

“Grace under pressure” – Hemingway’s famous phrase in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald (20 April 1926), published in Ernest Hemingway : Selected Letters 1917-1961 (1981) edited by Carlos Baker. In the letter, he wrote that he was “not referring to guts but to something else.” The phrase was later used by Dorothy Parker in a profile of Hemingway, “The Artist’s Reward,” in the New Yorker (30 November 1929)

Soon after the publication of The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway and Hadley divorced, due in part to his affair with a woman named Pauline Pfeiffer, who would become Hemingway’s second wife shortly after his divorce from Hadley was finalized. The author continued to work on his book of short stories, Men Without Women.

Soon, Pauline became pregnant and the couple decided to move back to America. After the birth of their son Patrick Hemingway in 1928, they settled in Key West, Florida, but summered in Wyoming. During this time, Hemingway finished his celebrated World War I novel A Farewell to Arms, securing his lasting place in the literary canon.

When he wasn’t writing, Hemingway spent much of the 1930s chasing adventure: big-game hunting in Africa, bullfighting in Spain, deep-sea fishing in Florida. While reporting on the Spanish Civil War in 1937, Hemingway met a fellow war correspondent named Martha Gellhorn (soon to become wife number three) and gathered material for his next novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, which would eventually be nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Almost predictably, his marriage to Pauline Pfeiffer deteriorated and the couple divorced. Gellhorn and Hemingway married soon after and purchased a farm near Havana, Cuba, which would serve as their winter residence.

When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Hemingway served as a correspondent and was present at several of the war’s key moments, including the D-Day landing. Toward the end of the war, Hemingway met another war correspondent, Mary Welsh, whom he would later marry after divorcing Martha Gellhorn.

In 1951, Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea, which would become perhaps his most famous book, finally winning him the Pulitzer Prize he had long been denied.

The author continued his forays into Africa and sustained several injuries during his adventures, even surviving multiple plane crashes.

In 1954, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Even at this peak of his literary career, though, the burly Hemingway’s body and mind were beginning to betray him. Recovering from various old injuries in Cuba, Hemingway suffered from depression and was treated for numerous conditions such as high blood pressure and liver disease.

He wrote A Moveable Feast, a memoir of his years in Paris, and retired permanently to Idaho. There he continued to battle with deteriorating mental and physical health.

Early on the morning of July 2, 1961, Ernest Hemingway committed suicide in his Ketchum home.

Hemingway left behind an impressive body of work and an iconic style that still influences writers today. His personality and constant pursuit of adventure loomed almost as large as his creative talent.

When asked by George Plimpton about the function of his art, Hemingway proved once again to be a master of the “one true sentence”: “From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality.”

Happy Birthday Edgar Degas

Today marks the 180th birthday of Edgar Degas.

NAME: Edgar Degas
OCCUPATION: Painter, Sculptor
BIRTH DATE: July 19, 1834
DEATH DATE: September 27, 1917
EDUCATION: University of Paris (Université de Paris), Lycée Louis-le-Grand, École des Beaux-Arts (formerly the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris)
PLACE OF BIRTH: Paris, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France
AKA: Hilaire-Germain-Edgar de Gas, Edgar De Gas, Edgar Degas
FULL NAME: Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

BEST KNOWN FOR: Painter and sculptor Edgar Degas was a highly celebrated 19th century French Impressionist whose work helped shape the fine art landscape for years to come.

Edgar Degas was born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar de Gas on July 19, 1834, in Paris, France. His father, Auguste, was a banker, and his mother, Celestine, was an American from New Orleans. Their family were members of the middle class with nobler pretensions. For many years, the Degas family spelled their name “de Gas”; the preposition “de” suggesting a land-owning aristocratic background which they did not actually have.

As an adult, Edgar Degas reverted back to the original spelling. Degas came from a very musical household; his mother was an amateur opera singer and his father occasionally arranged for musicians to give recitals in their home. Degas attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, a prestigious and rigorous boys’ secondary school, where he received a classical education.

Degas also displayed a remarkable skill for drawing and painting as a child, a talent encouraged by his father, who was a knowledgeable art lover. In 1853, at the age of 18, he received permission to “copy” at the Louvre in Paris. (During the 19th century, aspiring artists developed their technique by attempting to replicate the works of the masters.) He produced several impressive copies of Raphael as well, studying the work of more contemporary painters such as Ingres and Delacroix.

In 1855, Degas gained admission into the École des Beaux-Arts (formerly the Académie des Beaux-Arts) in Paris. However, after only one year of study, Degas left school to spend three years traveling, painting and studying in Italy. He painted painstaking copies of the works of the great Italian renaissance painters Michelangelo and da Vinci, developing a reverence for classical linearity that remained a distinguishing feature of even his most modern paintings.

Upon returning to Paris in 1859, Degas set out to make a name for himself as a painter. Taking a traditional approach, he painted large portraits of family members and grand historical scenes such as “The Daughter of Jephtha,” “Semiramis Building Babylon” and “Scene of War in the Middle Ages.” Degas submitted these works to the all-powerful Salon, a group of French artists and teachers who presided over public exhibitions. It had very rigid and conventional ideas of beauty and proper artistic form, and received Degas’s paintings with measured indifference.

In 1862, Degas met fellow painter Edouard Manet at the Louvre, and the pair quickly developed a friendly rivalry. Degas grew to share Manet’s disdain for the presiding art establishment as well as his belief that artists needed to turn to more modern techniques and subject matter.

By 1868, Degas had become a prominent member of a group of avant-garde artists including Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley, who gathered frequently at the Café Guerbois to discuss ways in which artists could engage the modern world. Their meetings coincided with tumultuous times in the history of France. In July 1870, the Franco-Prussian War broke out and the highly nationalistic Degas volunteered for the French National Guard. At the war’s conclusion in 1871, the infamous Paris Commune seized control of the capital for two terrifying months before Adolphe Thiers reestablished the Third Republic in a bloody civil war. Degas largely avoided the tumult of the Paris Commune by taking an extended trip to visit relatives in New Orleans.

Returning to Paris near the end of 1873, Degas, along with Monet, Sisley and several other painters, formed the Société Anonyme des Artistes (Society of Independent Artists), a group committed to putting on exhibitions free of the Salon’s control. The group of painters would come to be known as the Impressionists (though Degas preferred the term “realist” to describe his own work), and on April 15, 1874, they held the first Impressionist exhibition. The paintings Degas exhibited were modern portraits of modern women—milliners, laundresses and ballet dancers—painted from radical perspectives.

Over the course of the next 12 years, the group staged eight such Impressionist exhibitions, and Degas exhibited at all of them. His most famous paintings during these years were “The Dancing Class” (1871), “The Dance Class” (1874), “Woman Ironing” (1873) and “Dancers Practicing at the Bar” (1877). In 1880, he also sculpted “The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer,” a sculpture so hauntingly evocative that while some critics called it brilliant, others condemned him as cruel for having made it. While Degas’s paintings are not overtly political, they do reflect France’s changing social and economic environment. His paintings portray the growth of the bourgeoisie, the emergence of a service economy and the widespread entrance of women into the workplace.

In 1886, at the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in Paris, Degas exhibited 10 paintings of nude women in various stages of bathing. These nude paintings were the talk of the exhibition and also the source of controversy; some called the women “ugly” while others praised the honesty of his depictions. Degas went on to paint hundreds of studies of nude women. He also continued to paint dancers, contrasting the awkward humility of the dancer backstage with her majestic grace in the midst of performance.

In the mid-1890s, an episode known as the “Dreyfus Affair” sharply divided French society. In 1894, Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish captain in the French military, was convicted of treason on spying charges. Although evidence that proved Dreyfus’s innocence surfaced in 1896, rampant anti-Semitism kept him from being exonerated for another 10 years. With the country deeply divided between those in support of Dreyfus and those against him, Degas sided with those whose anti-Semitism blinded them to Dreyfus’s innocence. His stance against Dreyfus cost him many friends and much respect within the typically more tolerant avant-garde art circles.

Degas lived well into the 20th century, and though he painted less during these years, he promoted his work tirelessly and became an avid art collector. He never married, though he did count several women, including American painter Mary Cassatt, among his intimate friends. Edgar Degas died in Paris on September 27, 1917, at the age of 83.

While Degas has always been recognized as one of the greatest Impressionist painters, his legacy has been mixed in the decades since his death. The misogynist overtones present in his sexualized portraits of women, as well as his intense anti-Semitism, have served to alienate Degas from some modern critics. Still, the sheer beauty of his early works and the distinctly modern self-conscious elusiveness of his later portraits ensure Degas a lasting legacy. One thing remains indisputable about Degas: His were among the most painstakingly polished and refined paintings in history. An obsessive and careful planner, Degas liked to joke that he was the least spontaneous artist alive. “If painting weren’t difficult,” he once remarked, “it wouldn’t be so fun.”

 

Happy Birthday Camille Pissarro

Today is the 184th birthday of the artist Camille Pissarro.

NAME: Camille Pissarro
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: July 10, 1830
DEATH DATE: November 13, 1903
PLACE OF BIRTH: Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France
FULL NAME: Jacob-Abraham-Camille Pissarro

BEST KNOWN FOR: Camille Pissarro was a French landscape artist best known for his influence on Impressionist and Postimpressionist painting.

Jacob-Abraham-Camille Pissarro was born on July 10, 1830, on St. Thomas, in the Danish West Indies. His father was a French citizen of Portuguese Jewish descent, and his mother, who had previously been married to her new husband’s uncle, was Creole. The marriage was controversial, probably due to racial factors, and as a consequence the Pissarro children were compelled to attend the all-black local school rather than the Jewish school.

At the age of 12, Pissarro left St. Thomas to attend boarding school in France. There, he developed an early appreciation of the French art masters. Although he initially pursued a career in business, Pissarro never stopped drawing and painting in his spare time.

In 1852 Pissarro moved to Venezuela with Danish artist Fritz Melbye and lived there until 1855, when he returned to Paris. In Paris, he worked closely with Camille Corot and Gustave Courbet, honing his skills and experimenting with new approaches to art. Pissarro eventually fell in with a group of young artists, including Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne, who shared his interests and questions. The work of these artists was not accepted by the French artistic establishment, which excluded non-traditional painting from the official Salon exhibitions.

In 1871, Pissarro married Julie Vellay, with whom he would have seven children. They lived outside of Paris, where Pissarro painted scenes of village life and the natural world. Like many of his contemporaries, he preferred to work in the open air rather than the studio. The family moved to England during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. Returning to his home in France at the end of the war, Pissarro discovered that the majority of his existing body of work had been destroyed.

Pissarro rebounded quickly from this setback. He soon reconnected with his artist friends, including Cézanne, Monet, Manet, Renoir and Degas. In 1873, Pissarro established a collective of 15 artists with the goal of offering an alternative to the Salon. The following year, the group held their first exhibition, dominated by a style that became known as Impressionism. The unconventional content and style represented in the show shocked critics and helped to define Impressionism as an artistic movement.

By the 1880s, Pissarro moved into a Postimpressionist period, returning to some of his earlier themes and exploring new techniques such as pointillism. He forged new friendships with artists including Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, and was an early admirer of Vincent van Gogh. While in keeping with his lifelong interest in innovation, Pissarro’s turning away from Impressionism contributed to the general decline of the movement, which he had influenced greatly.

In his later years, Pissarro suffered from a recurring eye infection that prevented him from working outdoors during much of the year. As a result of this disability, he often painted while looking out the window of a hotel room. Pissarro died in Paris on November 13, 1903, and is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery.

 

Happy Birthday Marc Chagall

NAME: Marc Chagall
OCCUPATION:
Illustrator, Painter
BIRTH DATE:
July 7, 1887
DEATH DATE:
March 28, 1985
EDUCATION:
Imperial Society for the Protection of the Arts
PLACE OF BIRTH:
Vitebsk, Belarus
PLACE OF DEATH:
Saint-Paul de Vence, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: Marc Chagall was a Belorussian-born French artist whose work generally was based on emotional association rather than traditional pictorial fundamentals.

Marc Chagall was born on July 7, 1887, in Vitebsk, Belarus (in the Russian Empire), and was raised in a devoutly Jewish environment with eight other siblings. His father worked in a fish warehouse, and his mother ran a shop where she sold fish and sundry baking supplies. As a child, Chagall attended heder (Jewish elementary school) and later went to public school, where lessons were taught in Russian.

After learning the elements of drawing at school, from 1907 to 1910, Chagall studied painting in St. Petersburg at the Imperial Society for the Protection of the Arts, eventually under stage designer Léon Bakst. A characteristic work from this early period is “The Dead Man” (1908), a painting that depicts a violinist (a recurring image for the artist) amid a nightmarish rooftop scene.

Chagall moved to Paris in 1910, and then moved into a studio on the edge of town in a Bohemian area known as La Ruche (“the Beehive”). There, he met several writers and artists, including Guillaume Apollinaire, Robert Delaunay and Albert Gleizes. In such artistic company, experimentation was encouraged, and Chagall quickly began developing the poetic and innovative tendencies that had begun to emerge in Russia at the time—tendencies that may not have previously been encouraged. At the same time, he came under the influence of the Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Fauvist pictures he saw in Paris museums, and was introduced to Fauvism and Cubism. Before long, he was participating in the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne (1912), annual French exhibits, staging his first solo show in 1914 in Berlin to great adulation.

This period—during which he created several images of his childhood and hometown of Vitebsk—is considered Chagall’s strongest, artistically, and the style he developed would remain with him for the rest of his life. His works during this time include “Hommage Apollinaire” (1911-12), “The Fiddler” (1912) and “Paris Through the Window” (1913).

After the Berlin exhibition, Chagall returned to Vitebsk, Belarus, where he intended to stay long enough to marry his fiancée, Bella. A few weeks later, though, he was stranded by the outbreak of World War I, as the Russian borders were closed indefinitely. Instead of despairing, Chagall embraced local scenes in his art, working at the time in an unusually realistic style. Paintings such as “The Praying Jew” (or “The Rabbi of Vitebsk”; 1914) and “Jew in Green” (1914) emerged during this period.

Chagall married Bella in 1915, and the flying lovers of “Birthday” (1915-23) and the playful, acrobatic “Double Portrait With a Glass of Wine” (1917) serve as testaments to the joyousness of the artist’s spirit during the early years of his marriage.

At first, Chagall was enthusiastic about the Russian Revolution of October 1917, and he decided to settle in Vitebsk. In 1918, he was appointed commissar for art, and then founded and directed the Vitebsk Popular Art School. Disagreements with the Suprematists (a group of artists primarily concerned with geometric shapes) resulted in Chagall’s resignation from the school in 1920, after which he moved to Moscow, there undertaking his first stage designs for the State Jewish Chamber Theater. Chagall then left Russia for good. After a stop-over in Berlin in 1922, the artist returned to Paris in 1923 with his wife and daughter; his first retrospective took place there the following year, at the Galerie Barbazanges-Hodebert.

Chagall had learned engraving while in Berlin, and he received his first engraving commission in 1923, from Paris art dealer and publisher Ambroise Vollard, for creating etchings to illustrate a special edition of Nikolay Gogol’s novel Dead Souls. Over the next three years, Chagall completed 107 plates for the Gogol book, 100 gouaches for poet Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables, and a series of etchings illustrating the Bible; his career as a printmaker was in full swing.

During the 1930s, besides painting and engraving, Chagall traveled extensively: to the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Italy and Palestine, where he stayed for two months, visiting the Holy Land to inspire his Bible etchings. In Palestine in 1931, Chagall immersed himself in Jewish life and history, and by the time he returned to France, he had completed 32 of biblical plates (he would create 105 in total).

With Hitler rising to power, a full-blown war was waged in Germany against artists, and, subsequently, anything deemed modern or difficult to interpret being confiscated and burned (with some of Chagall’s works being singled out). The once-impressed German press now turned on Chagall, and in response, Chagall’s paintings struck a different tone, with terror and persecution taking on foreground roles.

In “Solitude” (1933), Chagall’s anxiety over the fate of humanity is represented by an atmosphere of despondency and in the figure of the huddled, pious Jew; in “White Crucifixion” (1938), Jewish and Christian symbols are mixed in a depiction of a Nazi crowd terrorizing Jews. The artist would be dealt another blow in 1939, when Ambroise Vollard died and Chagall’s various etching projects were put on hiatus. (Another publisher later picked up where Vollard had left off, issuing Dead Souls in 1948, La Fontaine’s Fables in 1952 and the Bible in 1956.)

With the outbreak of World War II, Chagall moved farther and farther south in France, as the Nazi threat became increasingly real for European Jews. A group of Americans ran a rescue operation trafficking artists and intellectuals out of Europe to the United States via forged visas, and Marc Chagall was one of more than 2,000 who escaped this way. He arrived in New York with Bella on June 23, 1941—the day after Germany invaded the Soviet Union—and spent most of the next few years in the New York area.

In New York, Chagall continued to develop his signature themes, but in 1942, a new commission came his way: to design the sets and costumes for a new ballet, Aleko, by Léonide Massine, which would stage Pushkin’s The Gypsies and be accompanied by the music of Tchaikovsky. When Aleko—Chagall’s first ballet—premiered on September 8, 1942, it was a great success. Also during this period, Chagall designed the backdrops and costumes for Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird (1945), another success.

The course of Chagall’s life and art was changed yet again in 1944, when his wife, Bella, passed away. Thereafter, depictions of memories of his wife recurred in Chagall’s work; she appears in several forms—a haunted weeping wife, an angel and a phantom bride—in “Around Her” (1945), and as a bride in “The Wedding Candles” (1945) and “Nocturne” (1947).

Before moving back to France for good in 1948, Chagall was honored with retrospective exhibitions at both the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1948, Chagall settled again in France, on the French Riviera at Vence. During the 1950s, he forayed into painting and modeling ceramics, stone sculptures and mosaics. In 1958, Chagall designed the scenery and costumes for the ballet Daphnis and Chloe for the Paris Opera, from whom, five years later, he received a commission to paint a new ceiling for its theater.

The choice of artist, however, stirred controversy, as some objected to having a French national monument redesigned by a Russian Jew, while others disliked the idea of a modernist working on such a historic building. Nonetheless, the project went forward with Chagall at the helm, and when it was unveiled, it was a huge hit with all factions, surprising many and vindicating others, Chagall included.

Over Chagall’s decades-long career, his use of color captured the attention of viewers, and his varying projects in his later years were no different: In 1960, he began creating stained-glass windows for the synagogue of Hebrew University’s Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem—a project that became a spiritual journey for Chagall, once again linking him to his Jewish heritage. Chagall later took on more stained-glass projects, including at the United Nations building (1964); the Fraumünster Cathedral in Zurich (1967); St. Stephen’s Church in Mainz, Germany (1978); and the All Saints’ Church in the United Kingdom (1978).

Marc Chagall died in Saint-Paul de Vence, France, on March 28, 1985, leaving behind a vast collection of work in several branches of the arts, as well as a rich legacy as a major Jewish artist and a pioneer of modernism. Pablo Picasso famously once said of the artist, “When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is.”

 

Happy Birthday Wallis Simpson

Today is the 118th birthday of Wallis Simpson.

 

NAME: Wallis Simpson
OCCUPATION: Duchess
BIRTH DATE: June 19, 1896
DEATH DATE: April 24, 1986
PLACE OF BIRTH: Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France
AKA: Wallis Warfield Simpson
Originally: Bessie Wallis Warfield
AKA: Wallis Simpson
Full Name: Wallis, Duchess of Windsor
AKA: Wallis Spencer

Best Known ForAmerican socialite Wallis Simpson became the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales. Edward abdicated the throne to marry her, a period known as the Abdication Crisis.

Wallis Simpson was born Bessie Wallis Warfield on June 19, 1896, in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania. The daughter of Baltimoreans Teackle Wallis Warfield and Alice Montague, Wallis dropped her first name during her youth. Her father died of tuberculosis when she was a baby, and Wallis and her mother became dependent on the charity of Wallis’s Uncle Warfield. Wallis became the poor relation, which led to an insecurity that followed her into adulthood. Uncle Warfield paid for Wallis to attend Oldfields School, the most expensive girls’ school in Maryland, where she was at the top of her class and was known for always being immaculately dressed.

In 1916, Wallis met Earl Winfield Spencer Jr., a U.S. Navy aviator. The couple married six months later. Win, as her husband was known, was an alcoholic, and in the course of their marriage was stationed in San Diego, Washington, D.C., and China. He and Wallis would be separated for months at a time. When their marriage began to break down, Wallis spent what she called her “lotus year” in China, traveling alone. Win and Wallis divorced in 1927. Wallis then married Ernest Aldrich Simpson, an English-American shipping executive. They wed in London and moved into a large flat with several servants.

Around this same time, Wallis met Lady Furness, then the mistress of Edward, Duke of Windsor (then known as the Prince of Wales), and on January 10, 1931, Wallis was introduced to the Prince of Wales at an event at Burrough Court. The prince later remembered that Wallis had a cold that night and was not at her best.

In January 1934, Wallis became Prince Edward’s mistress. He denied this to his family, who were outraged at his behavior, but by 1935 she had been presented at court and the couple had vacationed in Europe multiple times together.

On January 20, 1936, George V died, and Edward ascended the throne. It had become clear that Edward planned to marry Wallis as soon as she divorced Simpson. This caused a scandal in Britain that is now known as the “abdication crisis.” The consensus from the Church of England and the conservative British establishment was that Edward could not marry a divorced woman who still had two living ex-husbands. The king’s ministers also disapproved, finding Wallis’s behavior unacceptable. Britons were reluctant to accept an American as queen. During this time, Wallis fled to France to avoid the heavy press coverage.

On December 5, 1936, after Edward was told that could not keep the throne and marry Wallis, he decided to abdicate.

On December 11, 1936, Edward made a BBC broadcast, saying he could not do his job as king without the support of “the woman I love.” In May of the following year, Wallis’s divorce was made final, and on June 3, 1937, she became the Duchess of Windsor.

Wallis and Edward referred to themselves as “W.E.”—their initials, but also a dig at the royal “we,” which refers to a person in high office using a plural pronoun rather than a singular one to refer to him- or herself. Subversive and playful, their nickname reflects their relationship. Wallis had charisma and sex appeal. She was famous for her wit and her style. Though seemingly unimportant, Wallis played a cataclysmic role in the future of the British monarchy.

Happy Birthday Richard Avedon

Today is the 91st birthday of famed photographer Richard Avedon.  His iconic images capture the beauty, fragility, vulnerability, and life of his subjects that very few other photographers have the ability to express.

 

NAME: Richard Avedon
OCCUPATION: Photographer
BIRTH DATE: May 15, 1923
DEATH DATE: October 01, 2004
EDUCATION: DeWitt Clinton High School
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: San Antonio, Texas

Best Known For:  American photographer Richard Avedon was best known for his work in the fashion world and for his minimalist, large-scale character-revealing portraits.

Richard Avedon was born on May 15, 1923 in New York City. His mother, Anna Avedon, came from a family of dress manufacturers, and his father, Jacob Israel Avedon, owned a clothing store called Avedon’s Fifth Avenue. Inspired by his parents’ clothing businesses, as a boy Avedon took a great interest in fashion, especially enjoying photographing the clothes in his father’s store. At the age of 12, he joined the YMHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Association) Camera Club.

Avedon later described one childhood moment in particular as helping to kindle his interest in fashion photography: “One evening my father and I were walking down Fifth Avenue looking at the store windows,” he remembered. “In front of the Plaza Hotel, I saw a bald man with a camera posing a very beautiful woman against a tree. He lifted his head, adjusted her dress a little bit and took some photographs. Later, I saw the picture in Harper’s Bazaar. I didn’t understand why he’d taken her against that tree until I got to Paris a few years later: the tree in front of the Plaza had that same peeling bark you see all over the Champs-Elysees.”

Avedon attended DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City, where one of his classmates and closest friends was the great writer James Baldwin. In addition to his continued interest in fashion and photography, in high school Avedon also developed an affinity for poetry. He and Baldwin served as co-editors of the school’s prestigious literary magazine, The Magpie, and during his senior year, in 1941, Avedon was named “Poet Laureate of New York City High Schools.” After graduating that summer, Avedon enrolled at Columbia University to study philosophy and poetry. However, he dropped out after only one year to serve in the United States Merchant Marine during World War II. As a Photographer’s Mate Second Class, his main duty was taking identification portraits of sailors. Avedon served in the Merchant Marine for two years, from 1942 to 1944.

Upon leaving the Merchant Marine in 1944, Avedon attended the New School for Social Research in New York City to study photography under Alexey Brodovitch, the acclaimed art director of Harper’s Bazaar. Avedon and Brodovitch formed a close bond, and within one year Avedon was hired as a staff photographer for the magazine. After several years photographing daily life in New York City, Avedon was assigned to cover the spring and fall fashion collections in Paris. While legendary editor Carmel Snow covered the runway shows, Avedon’s task was to stage photographs of models wearing the new fashions out in the city itself. Throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s he created elegant black-and-white photographs showcasing the latest fashions in real-life settings such as Paris’s picturesque cafes, cabarets and streetcars.

Already established as one of the most talented young fashion photographers in the business, in 1955 Avedon made fashion and photography history when he staged a photo shoot at a circus. The iconic photograph of that shoot, “Dovima with Elephants,” features the most famous model of the time in a black Dior evening gown with a long white silk sash. She is posed between two elephants,  her back serenely arched as she holds on to the trunk of one elephant while reaching out fondly toward the other. The image remains one of the most strikingly original and iconic fashion photographs of all time. “He asked me to do extraordinary things,” Dovima said of Avedon. “But I always knew I was going to be part of a great picture.”

Avedon served as a staff photographer for Harper’s Bazaar for 20 years, from 1945 to 1965. In addition to his fashion photography, he was also well known for his portraiture. His black-and-white portraits were remarkable for capturing the essential humanity and vulnerability lurking in such larger-than-life figures as President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Dylan and The Beatles. During the 1960s, Avedon also expanded into more explicitly political photography. He did portraits of civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Julian Bond, as well as segregationists such as Alabama Governor George Wallace, and ordinary people involved in demonstrations. In 1969, he shot a series of Vietnam War portraits that included the Chicago Seven, American soldiers and Vietnamese napalm victims.

Avedon left Harper’s Bazaar in 1965, and from 1966 to 1990 he worked as a photographer for Vogue, its chief rival among American fashion magazines. He continued to push the boundaries of fashion photography with surreal, provocative and often controversial pictures in which nudity, violence and death featured prominently. He also continued to take illuminating portraits of leading cultural and political figures, ranging from Stephen Sondheim and Toni Morrison to Hillary Clinton. In addition to his work for Vogue, Avedon was also a driving force behind photography’s emergence as a legitimate art form during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. In 1959 he published a book of photographs, Observations, featuring commentary by Truman Capote, and in 1964 he published Nothing Personal, another collection of photographs, with an essay by his old friend James Baldwin.

In 1974 Avedon’s photographs of his terminally ill father were featured at the Museum of Modern Art, and the next year a selection of his portraits was displayed at the Marlborough Gallery. In 1977, a retrospective collection of his photographs, “Richard Avedon: Photographs 1947-1977,” was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before beginning an international tour of many of the world’s most famous museums. As one of the first self-consciously artistic commercial photographers, Avedon played a large role in defining the artistic purpose and possibilities of the genre.

“The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion,” he once said. “There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”

Richard Avedon married a model named Dorcas Nowell in 1944, and they remained married for six years before parting ways in 1950. In 1951, he married a woman named Evelyn Franklin; they had one son, John, before they also divorced.

In 1992,  Avedon became the first staff photographer in the history of The New Yorker. “I’ve photographed just about everyone in the world,” he said at the time. “But what I hope to do is photograph people of accomplishment, not celebrity, and help define the difference once again.” His last project for The New Yorker, which remained unfinished, was a portfolio entitled “Democracy” that included portraits of political leaders such as Karl Rove and John Kerry as well as ordinary citizens engaged in political and social activism.

Richard Avedon passed away on October 1, 2004, while on assignment for The New Yorker in San Antonio, Texas. He was 81 years old.

One of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, Richard Avedon expanded the genre of photography with his surreal and provocative fashion photography as well as portraits that bared the souls of some of the most important and opaque figures in the world. Avedon was such a predominant cultural force that he inspired the classic 1957 film Funny Face, in which Fred Astaire’s character is based on Avedon’s life. While much has been and continues to be written about Avedon, he always believed that the story of his life was best told through his photographs. Avedon said, “Sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me. My concern is… the human predicament; only what I consider the human predicament may simply be my own.”

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Happy Birthday Keith Haring – Style Icon

Keith Haring is someone whose work you know. You have seen it everywhere from MTV in the early days to yesterday on the side of a bus. His influence and legacy are far-reaching with no visible end in sight. I remember I bought a Keith Haring shirt one summer in Traverse City Michigan, it must have been 1990. It depicted a snake getting cut in half with the words “End AIDS” running under it. I loved that shirt, it made me feel powerful and involved and it gave me a voice.  Keith would have been 56 years old today if he hadn’t died when he was 32.  Do something today to make him proud.

If nothing else, download the Keith Haring iPad app today from iTunes.  It’s free in honor of his birthday.

 

NAME: Keith Haring
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: May 04, 1958
DEATH DATE: February 16, 1990
EDUCATION: Ivy School of Professional, Art School of Visual Arts
PLACE OF BIRTH: Reading, Pennsylvania
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: During his all-too-brief life, artist Keith Haring became a sensation in the art world with his bold, cartoon and graffiti influenced works during the 1980s.

The Wiki:

Born on May 4, 1958, in Reading, Pennsylvania. During his all-too-brief life, Keith Haring became a sensation in the art world with his bold, cartoon and graffiti influenced works during the 1980s.

Growing up in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, he spent many hours drawing with his father. Haring was fascinated by the popular cartoon art of Walt Disney and Charles Schultz.

Haring briefly attended the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh after graduating high school in 1976. He dropped out after two semesters. In 1978, Haring decided to return to school, moving to New York City to become a student at the School of Visual Arts. With its thriving underground art scene, New York seemed to be the perfect fit for the young artist. He began using the city as his canvas, making chalk drawings of barking dogs and babies in subway stations. He also befriended such other emerging artists as Jean-Michel Basquiat and helped organize exhibitions at nightclubs and other alternative locations.

In 1982, Haring had his first New York one-man show at the Shafrazi Gallery. Not only did he create paintings and sculptures for the show, he engulfed the entire gallery with his bold color choices and frenetic designs. A critical success, he soon became one of most popular artists of the time with exhibits in Japan, Brazil, and many other countries.

Haring collaborated with other artists and performers, including Andy Warhol and William Burroughs.

Wanting to make his art more accessible, Haring opened Pop Shop in New York City in 1986. The store sold posters, t-shirts, and other items baring his artwork and designs. He was also interested many social causes, painting an anti-drug mural that same year. In all, he did more than 50 public works and held numerous workshops for children. In 1988, Haring discovered that he had AIDS. The next year he created the Keith Haring Foundation to support AIDS organizations and children’s programs.

Haring died on February 16, 1990, of AIDS-related complications. His works continues to be exhibited around the world and many are owned by such prestigious museums as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

Polaroid by Andy Warhol

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Happy Birthday Joan Miro

miro 2

NAME: Joan Miró
OCCUPATION: Painter, Sculptor
BIRTH DATE: April 20, 1893
DEATH DATE: December 25, 1983
PLACE OF BIRTH: Barcelona, Spain
PLACE OF DEATH: Palma, Spain

Best Known For:  Catalan painter Joan Miró combined abstract art with Surrealist fantasy to create his lithographs, murals, tapestries, and sculptures for public spaces.

Born to the families of a goldsmith and a cabinet-maker, he grew up in the Barri Gòtic neighborhood of Barcelona.[2] His father was Miquel Miró Adzerias and his mother was Dolores Ferrà. He began drawing classes at the age of seven at a private school at Carrer del Regomir 13, a medieval mansion. In 1907 he enrolled at the fine art academy at La Llotja, to the dismay of his father. He studied at the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc and he had his first solo show in 1918 at the Dalmau Gallery, where his work was ridiculed and defaced. Inspired by Cubist and surrealist exhibitions from abroad, Miró was drawn towards the arts community that was gathering in Montparnasse and in 1920 moved to Paris, but continued to spend his summers in Catalonia.

He said, “The painting rises from the brushstrokes as a poem rises from the words. The meaning comes later.”

After overcoming a serious bout of typhoid fever in 1911, Miro decided to devote his life entirely to painting by attending the school of art taught by Francesc Galí. He studied at La Lonja School of Fine Arts in Barcelona, and in 1918 set up his first individual exhibition in the Dalmau Galleries, in the same city. His works before 1920 (the date of his first trip to Paris) reflect the influence of different trends, like the pure and brilliant colors used in Fauvism, shapes taken from cubism, influences from folkloric Catalan art and Roman frescos from the churches.

miro

His trip to Paris introduced him to and developed his trend of surrealist painting. In 1921, he showed his first individual exhibition in Paris, at La Licorne Gallery. In 1928, he exhibited with a group of surrealists in the Pierre Gallery, also in Paris, although Miró was always to maintain his independent qualities with respect to groups and ideologies.

From 1929-1930, Miró began to take interest in the object as such, in the form of collages. This was a practice which was to lead to his making of surrealist sculptures. His tormented monsters appeared during this decade, which gave way to the consolidation of his plastic vocabulary. He also experimented with many other artistic forms, such as engraving, lithography, water colors, pastels, and painting over copper. What is particularly highlighted from this period, are the two ceramic murals which he made for the UNESCO building in Paris (The Wall of the Moon and the Wall of the Sun, 1957-59).
Joan Miro UNESCO Mural- “The Moon and The Sun”

It was at the end of the 60´s when his final period was marked and which lasted until his death. During this time, he concentrated more and more on monumental and public works. He was characterized by the body language and freshness with which he carried out his canvasses, as well as the special attention he paid to material and the stamp he received from informalism. He concentrated his interest on the symbol, not giving too much importance to the representing theme, but to the way the symbol emerged as the piece of work. Miro had a very eccentric style that is the embodiment of his unique approach to his artwork.

In 1976 the Joan Miró Foundation Centre of Contemporary Art Study was officially opened in the city of Barcelona and in 1979, four years before his death, he was named Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Barcelona.

He said, “For me an object is something living. This cigarette or this box of matches contains a secret life much more intense than that of certain human beings. “

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Happy Birthday Richard Avedon

Today is the 91st birthday of famed photographer Richard Avedon.  His iconic images capture the beauty, fragility, vulnerability, and life of his subjects that very few other photographers have the ability to express.

 

NAME: Richard Avedon
OCCUPATION: Photographer
BIRTH DATE: May 15, 1923
DEATH DATE: October 01, 2004
EDUCATION: DeWitt Clinton High School
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: San Antonio, Texas

Best Known For:  American photographer Richard Avedon was best known for his work in the fashion world and for his minimalist, large-scale character-revealing portraits.

Richard Avedon was born on May 15, 1923 in New York City. His mother, Anna Avedon, came from a family of dress manufacturers, and his father, Jacob Israel Avedon, owned a clothing store called Avedon’s Fifth Avenue. Inspired by his parents’ clothing businesses, as a boy Avedon took a great interest in fashion, especially enjoying photographing the clothes in his father’s store. At the age of 12, he joined the YMHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Association) Camera Club.

Avedon later described one childhood moment in particular as helping to kindle his interest in fashion photography: “One evening my father and I were walking down Fifth Avenue looking at the store windows,” he remembered. “In front of the Plaza Hotel, I saw a bald man with a camera posing a very beautiful woman against a tree. He lifted his head, adjusted her dress a little bit and took some photographs. Later, I saw the picture in Harper’s Bazaar. I didn’t understand why he’d taken her against that tree until I got to Paris a few years later: the tree in front of the Plaza had that same peeling bark you see all over the Champs-Elysees.”

Avedon attended DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City, where one of his classmates and closest friends was the great writer James Baldwin. In addition to his continued interest in fashion and photography, in high school Avedon also developed an affinity for poetry. He and Baldwin served as co-editors of the school’s prestigious literary magazine, The Magpie, and during his senior year, in 1941, Avedon was named “Poet Laureate of New York City High Schools.” After graduating that summer, Avedon enrolled at Columbia University to study philosophy and poetry. However, he dropped out after only one year to serve in the United States Merchant Marine during World War II. As a Photographer’s Mate Second Class, his main duty was taking identification portraits of sailors. Avedon served in the Merchant Marine for two years, from 1942 to 1944.

Upon leaving the Merchant Marine in 1944, Avedon attended the New School for Social Research in New York City to study photography under Alexey Brodovitch, the acclaimed art director of Harper’s Bazaar. Avedon and Brodovitch formed a close bond, and within one year Avedon was hired as a staff photographer for the magazine. After several years photographing daily life in New York City, Avedon was assigned to cover the spring and fall fashion collections in Paris. While legendary editor Carmel Snow covered the runway shows, Avedon’s task was to stage photographs of models wearing the new fashions out in the city itself. Throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s he created elegant black-and-white photographs showcasing the latest fashions in real-life settings such as Paris’s picturesque cafes, cabarets and streetcars.

Already established as one of the most talented young fashion photographers in the business, in 1955 Avedon made fashion and photography history when he staged a photo shoot at a circus. The iconic photograph of that shoot, “Dovima with Elephants,” features the most famous model of the time in a black Dior evening gown with a long white silk sash. She is posed between two elephants,  her back serenely arched as she holds on to the trunk of one elephant while reaching out fondly toward the other. The image remains one of the most strikingly original and iconic fashion photographs of all time. “He asked me to do extraordinary things,” Dovima said of Avedon. “But I always knew I was going to be part of a great picture.”

Avedon served as a staff photographer for Harper’s Bazaar for 20 years, from 1945 to 1965. In addition to his fashion photography, he was also well known for his portraiture. His black-and-white portraits were remarkable for capturing the essential humanity and vulnerability lurking in such larger-than-life figures as President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Dylan and The Beatles. During the 1960s, Avedon also expanded into more explicitly political photography. He did portraits of civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Julian Bond, as well as segregationists such as Alabama Governor George Wallace, and ordinary people involved in demonstrations. In 1969, he shot a series of Vietnam War portraits that included the Chicago Seven, American soldiers and Vietnamese napalm victims.

Avedon left Harper’s Bazaar in 1965, and from 1966 to 1990 he worked as a photographer for Vogue, its chief rival among American fashion magazines. He continued to push the boundaries of fashion photography with surreal, provocative and often controversial pictures in which nudity, violence and death featured prominently. He also continued to take illuminating portraits of leading cultural and political figures, ranging from Stephen Sondheim and Toni Morrison to Hillary Clinton. In addition to his work for Vogue, Avedon was also a driving force behind photography’s emergence as a legitimate art form during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. In 1959 he published a book of photographs, Observations, featuring commentary by Truman Capote, and in 1964 he published Nothing Personal, another collection of photographs, with an essay by his old friend James Baldwin.

In 1974 Avedon’s photographs of his terminally ill father were featured at the Museum of Modern Art, and the next year a selection of his portraits was displayed at the Marlborough Gallery. In 1977, a retrospective collection of his photographs, “Richard Avedon: Photographs 1947-1977,” was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before beginning an international tour of many of the world’s most famous museums. As one of the first self-consciously artistic commercial photographers, Avedon played a large role in defining the artistic purpose and possibilities of the genre.

“The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion,” he once said. “There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”

Richard Avedon married a model named Dorcas Nowell in 1944, and they remained married for six years before parting ways in 1950. In 1951, he married a woman named Evelyn Franklin; they had one son, John, before they also divorced.

In 1992,  Avedon became the first staff photographer in the history of The New Yorker. “I’ve photographed just about everyone in the world,” he said at the time. “But what I hope to do is photograph people of accomplishment, not celebrity, and help define the difference once again.” His last project for The New Yorker, which remained unfinished, was a portfolio entitled “Democracy” that included portraits of political leaders such as Karl Rove and John Kerry as well as ordinary citizens engaged in political and social activism.

Richard Avedon passed away on October 1, 2004, while on assignment for The New Yorker in San Antonio, Texas. He was 81 years old.

One of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, Richard Avedon expanded the genre of photography with his surreal and provocative fashion photography as well as portraits that bared the souls of some of the most important and opaque figures in the world. Avedon was such a predominant cultural force that he inspired the classic 1957 film Funny Face, in which Fred Astaire’s character is based on Avedon’s life. While much has been and continues to be written about Avedon, he always believed that the story of his life was best told through his photographs. Avedon said, “Sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me. My concern is… the human predicament; only what I consider the human predicament may simply be my own.”

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