Irving Penn
Iceland Poppy/Papaver nudicaule (F), New York, 2006
Digital pigment print with Epson Ultrachrome. Paper mounted to board
26 3/8 x 21 1/2 in.
Edition of 14
© The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn presents us with an exceptional vision of forms, tones and patterns in his Flowers series, entwining the beauty of nature with his photographic genius.

 

The series initiated from an assignment by Vogue USA for the 1967 Christmas edition. This became the first of seven summers that Penn would photograph flowers for Vogue, each year devoting himself to one particular flower. The photographs were collectively published as a book Flowers in 1980: 1967, Tulips; 1968, Poppies; 1969, Peonies, 1970, Orchids; 1971, Roses; 1972, Lilies; 1973, Begonias.

 

In contrast to his fashion work, Penn had an interest in the graver side of life and would often record the impending prospect of death. This subject is evident in Cranium Architecture, Vanitas, his works containing rotting fruit, and also in Flowers. As Penn documents the beauty and patterns within the cut flowers, he is also viewing them slowly break down and wilt.

 

Penn commented, "I can claim no special knowledge of horticulture… I even confess to enjoying that ignorance since it has left me free to react with simple pleasure just to form and colour, without being diverted by considerations of rarity or tied to the convention that a flower must be photographed at its moment of unblemished, nubile perfection."