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IRVING PENN: BEYOND BEAUTY, organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is the first retrospective of Penn’s work in nearly twenty years. The exhibition presents over 140 photographs including iconic images from his oeuvre as well as previously unseen or never exhibited photographs. Irving Penn (1917–2009) is one of the best-known American photographers of the 20th century. In a career that spanned almost seventy years, Penn worked on professional and artistic projects across multiple genres. He was a master of both black-and-white and color photography, and he was key to the revival of platinum printing in the 1960s and 1970s.

Seeing a retrospective of a career of someone that started in an untrained capacity and mastered their tool is inspiring as an amateur photographer. The difference in his work from the beginning of the exhibit to the end and knowing it was done on film and without the benefit of Photoshop is beyond impressive. From portraits of Salvador Dali and Truman Capote to tribal people and even everyday objects and trash Penn captured light on film in a manner that deserves a museum exhibit.

I hope this exhibit makes its way to my home museum (the North Carolina Museum of Art) because I’d love to see it again. I wasn’t familiar with Irving Penn before the exhibit but really found his work in this exhibit to be outstanding. Great pick Travis and Claire – glad we stopped in for this one. If you are in Dallas before August 14th it is worth making a stop on your trip. More info and some samples of the pieces in the exhibit.

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