Phillips announces a selection of 11 photographs from a large private collection

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Irving Penn, (clockwise from top left) Milkman (A), New York, 1951; Motor Driver, London, 1950; Sweeper Station, New York, 1951; Rockette, New York, 1951; House painter (B), London, 1950; Iceman, New York, 1951; Hunter, New York, 1951; Tinker, London, 1950; Locomotive Fireman, London, 1950; Barber, New York, 1951
Image courtesy of Phillips

Phillips announces a selection of 11 photographs from a large private collection

Including ten fresh masterpieces at Irving Penn’s 1950-51 auction Small Trades series

Phillips is pleased to announce an offer of exclusive and market-fresh photographs that will be auctioned on November 23 from a major private collection. Including an exceptional, oversized work by Helmut Newton which will be featured in ULTIMATE and ULTIMATE IRVING PENN, a carefully curated selection of ten platinum-palladium prints by Irving Penn’s Small Trades series. Captured between 1950 and 1951 in London and New York, these striking full-length portraits represent men and women working with the clothes and tools of their trade. All 11 works have been in the same private collection for over a decade and are appearing at auction for the first time, including that of Helmut Newton Mercedes, Paris, 1975 of the rare and oversized edition of three. A preview exhibition of these works will be open to the public from November 8 to 12 at 46 rue du Bac in Paris and from November 17 to 23 at 30 Berkeley Square in London.

Yuka Yamaji, Photography Manager, Europe said: “We are delighted with the extraordinary caliber of these 11 works on offer in November. ULTIMATE, directed by Helmut Newton Mercedes, Paris, offers collectors the very rare opportunity to acquire this larger-than-life work from the out of print edition of three. ULTIMATE IRVING PENN Presents Ten Exquisite Small Trades platinum-palladium prints that are long out of print and fresh at auction. Since the creation of Small Trades, most of these professions have all but disappeared, ensuring the legacy of Penn’s iconic series not only as a major artistic achievement but also as a historical testament to our society. We look forward to welcoming visitors to our pre-sale exhibitions in Paris and London, where these incredible works can be seen in person. “

To create Small Trades (1950-51), Penn chooses to isolate the subject in the neutral space of his studio rather than in the vernacular setting of the street. He will later recall: “I preferred the limited task of dealing only with the person himself, far from the accidents of his daily life, simply in his own clothes and ornaments, isolated in my studio. From him alone I would distill the image I wanted, and the cold daylight would put it on the film. The studio setting with its signature heather gray backdrop gave the portraits a sense of timelessness. By asking his babysitters to occupy the space as they please, Penn let their personalities slowly emerge under his patient eye.

After initially posting the Small Trades photographs in the French, British and American pages Vogue, Penn embarked on a multi-year research project to learn more about platinum printing, which was a popular printing process around the turn of the 20th century. Penn’s many experiments led him to the platinum-palladium process, which allowed him to create prints with remarkable subtlety, rich tones and sultry textures that were radically different from brilliant silver prints. A meticulous craftsman, Penn mixed, coated, exhibited and developed all platinum-palladium prints himself, reveling in his newfound ability to manipulate each image as he saw fit. Perfecting his technique in 1967, he reprinted his Small Trades work in platinum-palladium, imbuing his subjects with warmth and transforming his images into luminous works of art.

In 2008, Penn spoke with the deepest respect and empathy about the daily lives of workers, describing his Small Trades photographs as “residual images of enchantment”. The metamorphosis of Small Trades from their initial magazine appearance to their rigorous reinterpretation as platinum-palladium prints reflect Penn’s own career of Vogue photographer to one of the most acclaimed artists of the 20th century.

Auction: 23 November 2021

Viewing auctions: November 17-23, 2021

Site: 30 Berkeley Square, London

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