Irving’s Woman


Clothes make the man.

Naked people have little or

no influence on society.

Mark Twain


Irving Penn and Lisa Fonssagrives


The month’s iconic birthday boy is Irving Penn, born June 16, 1917.  He spent 66 of his 92 years at Vogue, creating an unprecedented 165 covers—more than any other photographer in its history.  He is remembered for luminous couture compositions shot in natural light as much as his portraits that seemed to reveal hidden selves of sitters from famous celebrities, indigenous folks and people next door, to local tradesmen. For his iconic backdrops, he worked with a discarded theatrical curtain in the studio and random scenes around the streets of Paris.

It was at Vogue’s historic shoot of the Twelve Beauties, the first group portrait of the popular models of the era, that he met the fabulous woman considered to be the original supermodel who eventually became his wife and muse for 42 years, Lisa Fonssagrives. How can a woman resist a man who chooses her over several other lovelies?

What is most remarkable about this artist famous for his fashion portraits is that he didn’t even like fashion. He wanted to be a painter but when that didn’t pan out, his friend hired him to work at Vogue’s art department. When the reigning Vogue photographers of the time could not deliver the modern look that he sought to give the magazine a fresh look for the next generation of women, he picked up the camera himself, diligently applying his technical and artistic skills to successfully deliver his aesthetic. Aside from paid assignments, he constantly pursued his own personal projects shooting flowers, still life, etc. This is an essential practice to consider when we feel stuck and uninspired. Very useful, too, for those who are confused and made lame by the pandering philosophy of “follow your passion” when there’s no obvious passion in plain sight.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share how you keep your heart’s fire burning.


All photos on this page are from Google Images.

Twelve Beauties, Vogue 1947


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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman







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