Salvador Dalí (1 of 3), New York


Silver print

9 5/8 x 7 11/16 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.

After WWII, Irving Penn resumed his work for Vogue with a series of celebrity photographs commissioned by the magazine’s artistic director, Alexander Liberman. The subjects were chosen in advance, but Penn was given carte blanche for the backgrounds and the lighting, and on running the shoot itself. He made a large number of extraordinary portraits between 1947 and 1949, including one of Salvador Dali. During this period, Penn decided to position his subjects in a narrow corner formed using two partitions, a sort of dead-end whose entrance was blocked by the photographer. Each personality was forced to adapt to this tight space, without any room to move or any accessory objects. All the exuberance of this Spanish artist is embodied in the dominant position with which he fills the space available to him, using his legs, arms, and even his feet, which turn outwards. He carries his head magisterially, his deep, powerful stare absorbing the viewer's gaze. Penn and his subject managed to express the complexity of this Surrealist figure with an unusual economy of means.

This photograph was shown for the first time by Pinault Collection in 2015 during the exhibition "Irving Penn, Resonance", at Palazzo Grassi, Venice.