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August 29th, 2006
Museum Pays Tribute to Arnold Newman (1918-2006), Modern Portrait Photographer

Celebrated portrait photographer Arnold Newman (1918-2006), who died on June 6, 2006 at age 88, is often cited as the pioneer of the "environmental portrait," in which subjects are carefully placed amid surroundings that comment on their personality or achievements. He photographed Igor Stravinsky at his piano, Salvador Dalí in his studio, and U.S. Presidents in the Oval Office. Yet Newman himself rejected the term "environmental," considering himself a modernist who used all the formal elements of his medium to produce compelling pictures.

In honor of the influential photographer, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present Modern People: A Tribute to Arnold Newman from September 23, 2006-March 4, 2007 in the Julien Levy Gallery. The exhibition of more than 60 images drawn from the Museum's collection includes photographs by Newman along with a selection of portraits by Newman's contemporaries, both to offer a comparison of his work with that of others and to demonstrate the range of modern portrait photography.

"Arnold Newman combined close attention to the formal design of pictures with a canny ability to suggest aspects of a personality through setting," said Peter Barberie, the Horace W. Goldsmith Curatorial Fellow in Photography at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "His commitment to showing figures in context distinguishes his work from portraits by his peers Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, who both preferred to photograph their famous subjects in the neutral setting of the studio."

Newman lived and worked in Philadelphia from 1938-46, and in 1944 the Philadelphia Museum of Art organized his first solo exhibition, Artists Look Like This, which consisted of portraits of living visual artists, sometimes paired with a work by the subject. "In the present exhibition we have installed a number of photographs from the collection that were included in the 1944 show," Barberie said. "Accompanying them is a selection of portraits by Newman's contemporaries, so that his approach to portraiture may be compared with others."

Among more than 30 photographers represented are August Sander, Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe, Barbara Morgan, James VanDerZee and W. Eugene Smith, as well as significant groups by Dorothy Norman and Carl Van Vechten, two artists whose work the Museum holds in depth. In addition to numerous artist portraits, the exhibition includes photographs of writers including Zora Neale Hurston, Truman Capote, and Theodore Dreiser, and performers such as Ina Claire, Cab Calloway, and Dame Judith Anderson.

Born in 1918 in New York, Newman grew up in Atlantic City and Miami Beach. In the mid-1930s, he studied art in high school and then focused on painting and printmaking at the University of Miami before moving to Philadelphia in 1938 to take his first professional job in a portrait studio. While in Philadelphia, Newman studied at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts) under Alexey Brodovitch (1898-1971), the American photographer and graphic designer famous as the art director of Harper's Bazaar from 1934 to 1958. Newman began spending time in New York in 1941, where he photographed a number of artists. His meetings with leading photographers and curators, including Alfred Stieglitz and Beaumont Newhall, led to exhibitions and work for magazines such as Life, Fortune, and The New Yorker, for which he photographed many notable figures, particularly from the worlds of art and politics.

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