Irving Penn’s Flowers Bring Elegant Minimalism to London
Hamiltons is presenting Penn’s Flowers series of 42 prints that will be accompanied by a fully illustrated, hardbound catalogue raisonné (to be published in collaboration with The Irving Penn Foundation). According to a press release, Hamiltons’ Flowers retrospective is the first time Penn’s whole series of floral imagery will be shown together.
Irving Penn’s Flowers have become one of the photographers most well-known photo sets since published in the mid-1900’s. In the late 1930’s, Penn worked as Art Director of Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan– until 1943, when he started working as a photographer for Vogue.
According to the gallery, Penn’s Flowers series was initiated from an assignment for the 1967 Christmas edition of Vogue. For the next seven years, Penn would continue photographing flowers for Vogue on an annual basis– devoting himself to one class of flower each year, and perpetually emphasizing specimens in the early stages of decay.
“[These flowers] have passed the point of perfection, when they have already begun spotting and browning and twisting on their way back to the earth.” – Irving Penn
In 1967 Penn’s focus was Tulips; in 1968, Poppies and Peonies; in 1969, Orchids; in 1970, Roses; in 1971, Lilies; in 1973, Begonias– all of which were coralled into a book called Flowers, which was published in 1980.
Penn continued to document the beauty and patterns within flowers until his death in 2009, and in the process draw significant attention to the reproductive elements within the process of each flowers’ decay and wilt. Often, as Hamiltons points out, “Penn deliberately chose flowers that ‘have passed the point of perfection, when they have already begun spotting and browning and twisting on their way back to the earth’. Thus, claims the gallery, “Penn chose to focus on moments of unlikely beauty, revealing the mortality of flowers, whilst also celebrating the sensual beauty of each specimen.”