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Exhibition Catalogue

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A 104-page hardcover catalogue with 47 illustrations, including 39 full-page reproductions, will be published to coincide with the exhibition. It will feature the first scholarship on Penn’s painting practice, with essays by writer and curator, David Campany, and legacy program manager at The Irving Penn Foundation, Alexandra Dennett; with afterwords by Arne Glimcher, Pace Gallery founder, and Peter MacGill, Pace/MacGill Gallery founder.

Produced by Sandra M. Klimt, Klimt Studio, Inc. and designed by Malcolm Grear Designers, the catalogue is printed by Meridian Printing with four-color separations by Martin Senn.

It is published by Apparition, an imprint of The Irving Penn Foundation,in association with Pace Gallery and Pace/MacGill Gallery. 

The catalogue will be released in September 2018. 
Join our mailing list to be notified when it is available. 


Penn's Painting Practice

 Irving Penn,  Undersea Creature , 1989. Ink, watercolor, and dry pigment with gum arabic over platinum-palladium print on paper.  ©  The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn, Undersea Creature, 1989. Ink, watercolor, and dry pigment with gum arabic over platinum-palladium print on paper. © The Irving Penn Foundation

 

As a young man, after graduating from the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art in 1938, Irving Penn harbored dreams of becoming a painter. In 1941–42, he spent a year in Mexico painting, but he found his results to be disappointing and destroyed all but a small group of drawings. Despite this repudiation, drawing continued to play an important role for Penn in his subsequent work as a photographer as he worked out an image and its composition.

Following his retrospective exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in 1984, Penn returned to painting after more than forty years. He developed unique working methods, inspired by his experiences printing photographs in platinum and palladium metals. 

In the period between 1986 and 2000, he photographed drawings to convert them into the underlying structure for paintings. By reproducing the drawings as platinum-palladium prints, he enlarged their scale and emphasized the graphic quality of their lines. Penn then used the resulting print as a matrix, painting over it using combinations of watercolor, ink, dry pigments, and gum arabic. 

After 2000, when Penn ceased platinum-palladium printing, he began making inkjet prints from scanned drawings. He also produced freehand paintings using no photographic or printing processes. Examples of all these methods will be on display in the exhibition at Pace Gallery, at 32 East 57th Street, New York, from September 13 through October 13, 2018. 

 

 


Timeline

 Irving Penn,  Drawing Tools , 2006. India ink and watercolor with gum arabic over inkjet print on paper.  ©  The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn, Drawing Tools, 2006. India ink and watercolor with gum arabic over inkjet print on paper. © The Irving Penn Foundation

 

1934–38

Penn studies at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts, Philadelphia).

1941

Travels to Mexico to paint for a year. Penn destroys the paintings before returning to New York. 

1943

Begins work at Vogue with Alexander Liberman. During their collaboration, which continues for the next five decades, they frequently make sketches while planning and discussing photographs.

1966

Penn photographs abstract compositions of stacked cards for printing using the platinum-palladium print process. He will revisit these twenty years later to use as matrices for paintings.

1984

Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art includes two early drawingsfrom 1939–42 and two drawings made in 1978. 

Mid-1980s

Penn resumes painting and drawing. Develops technique to photograph a sketch to print in platinum-palladium and use as a matrix for a painting.

1999

First inventory of paintings and drawings prepared.

Publication of Drawings and Astronomers Plan A Voyage To Earth books.

2000

Last drawings printed in platinum-palladium.

2000–2007

Paintings made using scanned drawings, matrices printed in inkjet.

Paintings without any printing techniques.

2017

Two paintings and three drawings included in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Irving Penn: Centennial” retrospective exhibition.

September 13–October 13, 2018

First exhibition focusing on Penn’s paintings, at Pace Gallery.


Painting over Prints

 Irving Penn,  Untitled , 1987. Ink, watercolor, and dry pigment with gum arabic over platinum-palladium print on paper.  ©  The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn, Untitled, 1987. Ink, watercolor, and dry pigment with gum arabic over platinum-palladium print on paper. © The Irving Penn Foundation

 
 Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn,  Irving Penn in his painting studio , Sweden, 1987. © The Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn Trust

Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, Irving Penn in his painting studio, Sweden, 1987.
© The Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn Trust

After his 1984 retrospective at MoMA, Penn returned to drawing and painting as a serious creative endeavor for the first time in more than forty years. By 1986, he had developed an idiosyncratic technique of photographing a drawing to enlarge and print in platinum-palladium, using the resulting print as the underlying structure for a painting. 

His drawings were often graphic compositions of geometric shapes, although he also used this technique with figurative drawings. Pictured here working in his studio in Sweden, Penn paints over one printed matrix in ink, watercolor, and dry pigment while others dry in the background. He also added gum arabic to introduce craquelures, bubbles, and scales to the surface of his paintings.