Frederick Kiesler


Silver print

13 7/16 × 15 9/16 in

Irving Penn (1917-2009), one of the undisputed masters of twentieth-century photography, is known for his iconic images of haute couture and still life, but also, and above all, for his magnificent portraits of the artists, writers and celebrities who marked the cultural landscape of their time.

This portrait of Penn depicts Austrian-American architect Frederick Kiesler (1890-1965), who became known for his inventive set designs that made use of mirrors and projections. Kiesler moved to New York in 1926 and helped spread the ideas of the European avant-garde in the United States. He believed that “sculpture, painting, architecture should not be used as wedges to split our experience of art and life; they are here to link, to correlate, to bind dream and reality”.

In this portrait, he is shown with his most iconic project, which was never completed, though: the Endless House, a single-family home whose biomorphic form and lack of corners strongly differed from the strict modernist geometry of that time. This structure was supposed to meet its occupants functional and spiritual needs. The plan to build this project at full scale in the MoMA’s gardens was never carried out. Kiesler's concept was nevertheless highly influential, and it embodied the leitmotif of his work perfectly: “Form does not follow function. Function follows vision. Vision follows reality”.

This photograph was shown for the first time by Pinault Collection in 2023 during the exhibition “Irving Penn, Artists' Portraits”, Villa Les Roches Brunes, Dinard.