In 2017, when New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art staged a major exhibition honoring the 100th birthday of the late photographer Irving Penn, its director, Thomas P. Campbell, cited Penn as “one of the most celebrated American artists of the 20th century.” The statement was an acknowledgment of Penn’s “uncommon virtuosity” with a camera, as Campbell put it, and his innovation in the darkroom, but also indicated that Penn’s oeuvre was more diverse than just his renowned photography.
On September 13, the Pace Gallery and Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York—which has long represented Penn—will reveal a little-known aspect of Penn’s work: his paintings, created during the final decades of his life, from the mid-1980s until his death in 2009. His archives contain more than 200 painted works, most never seen by the public, and approximately 30 will be shown at the Pace Gallery exhibition.
“My father always felt that when the time was right, [they] would come to the surface,” says his son, Tom Penn. “I think he knew about my passion for the work, and that I would bring it forward and let the world know it existed. And now is the time for the paintings to come into the daylight.” Read Ms. Blume’s exclusive on the upcoming exhibit, and this lesser-known aspect of the artist’s body of work.