Richard Avedon, Richard Avedon, self-portrait, Photographer, Provo, Utah, August 20, 1980 (ITAW), 1980, 50 1/8 × 39 1/4 inches (127.3 × 99.7 cm), edition of 6 © The Richard Avedon Foundation
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. Avedon’s subjects included pop icons, models, musicians, writers, artists, workers, political activists, soldiers, Vietnam War victims, politicians, and his family.
Richard Avedon was born in 1923 in New York, and died in 2004 in San Antonio, Texas. He studied philosophy at Columbia University, New York, and served in the photography department of the U.S. Merchant Marines prior to studying photography with Alexey Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research, New York. Avedon’s work has been the subject of numerous museum exhibitions around the world. Recent solo shows include “Portraits,” Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2002); “In The American West, 20th Anniversary Tour,” Amon Carter Museum, Texas (2005, traveled to Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; Center for Creative Photography, Arizona; and Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, California); “Richard Avedon Photographs 1946–2004,” Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark (2007, traveled to FORMA, Milan; Jeu de Paume, Paris; Martin–Gropius–Bau, Berlin; FOAM, Amsterdam; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California); “Portraits of Power,” Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (2008, traveled to San Diego Museum of Art, California); “Photographer of Influence,” Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona (2009, traveled as “Larger Than Life,” Grand Rapids Art Museum, Michigan; “Fashion, Stage, and Screen,” Palm Springs Art Museum, California; and “Photographer of Influence,” Nassau County Museum, New York); “Avedon Fashion 1944–2000,” International Center for Photography, New York (2009, traveled to Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Norton Museum of Art, Florida); “People,” National Portrait Gallery, Australia (2013); “Family Affairs,” The Israeli Museum, Jerusalem (2014, traveled to National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, through 2015); “Murals and Portraits,” Museum Brandhorst, Munich (2014); and “People,” Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth (2014, traveled to The Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne, Australia).