By capturing American ideals of celebrity, fashion, and beauty in the 20th and early 21st centuries, Richard Avedon helped to establish photography as a contemporary art form. Avedon’s distinct style of portrait photography is nothing short of iconic. While the portraiture of his contemporaries focused on single moments or composed formal images, his stark lighting and minimalist white backdrops drew the viewer to the intimate, emotive power of the subject’s expression. Between 1945 and 1965, he worked as a fashion photographer, revolutionizing the craft even as he honed his aesthetic. His work appeared in magazines from Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue to Life and Look. Later, he moved into journalism and the art world. His subjects included pop icons, models, musicians, writers, artists, workers, political activists, soldiers, Vietnam War victims, politicians, and his family. Curator Paul Roth observes: “In an Avedon portrait, the face maps an intersection: It is a place where the world outside the photograph meets the world inside the mind.”
Richard Avedon (b. 1923, New York; d. 2004, San Antonio, Texas) studied philosophy at Columbia University, New York, and served in the photography department of the U.S. Merchant Marines before studying photography with Alexey Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research, New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, presented two solo exhibitions during his lifetime, in 1978 and 2002. Major retrospectives were mounted at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1994), and at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humblebaek, Denmark (2007; traveled to Milan, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and San Francisco, through 2009). Gagosian Gallery announced its worldwide representation of Richard Avedon in 2011.