Piet Mondrian behind his easel, Igor Stravinsky at his piano, Max Ernst sitting smoking on his throne-like chair: the photographs of Arnold Newman (1918-2006) are classics of portraiture. His subtle arrangements constituted the foundations of “environmental portraiture.” His photographs integrate the respective artist’s characteristic equipment and surroundings, thus indicating his or her field of activity. The enormous fame of Newman’s portraits can be ascribed to their daring compositions and sometimes astounding spatial structures.
The photographer’s beginnings, however, were none too promising. During the Great Depression, Newman had to abandon his art studies for financial reasons. Between 1938 and 1942 he concentrated on socio-documentary photography in the ghettos of West Palm Beach, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. One might think that being forced to earn his living in a photography studio would have stifled his artistic potential: Newman portrayed up to 70 clients a day. Yet he still succeeded in developing a very personal touch and establishing himself in the New York art scene of the early 1940s. His subjects included Marcel Duchamp, Marc Chagall, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Alexander Calder among many others. With his unmistakable style, Newman became the star photographer of artists, writers, and musicians.
This new edition, which includes recent work and an updated biography, provides a sweeping overview of Newman’s illustrious career.
Arnold Newman, probably the most extensive of the many samplings of the photographer's work, amply displays his vaunted skill at portraying mostly well-known sitters in their native habitats, whether these happen to be lonely-looking palaces (Haile Selassie, Generalissimo Franco), book-lined offices (Golda Meier, Stephen Jay Gould), a shabby road veiled in darkness (Shelagh Delaney), a bed (Woody Allen, scribbling on a legal pad), or mysterious precincts that capture the willful individuality of artists and architects. With 240 black-and-white and color plates, this beautifully produced book (marred only by the awkward way the elegant black silhouette of a grand piano lid in the Igor Stravinsky portrait bleeds across two pages) accompanies an exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (March 18-May 21, 2000). --Cathy Curtis
Hardcover : 280 pages