Feb 15, 2024 - Sale 2659

Sale 2659 - Lot 20

Price Realized: $ 35,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 20,000 - $ 30,000
IRVING PENN (1917-2009)
Breton Onion Seller, London, from the Small Trades series. Silver print, the image measuring 13¼x9½ inches (33.7x24.1 cm.), the mount 15x11 inches (24.1x27.9 cm), with Penn's signature, title, negative date, initialed printing notation "print made 1951," and reference number in ink, and his credit stamps (2), copyright stamps (2), and edition limitation stamp "signed silver prints of this negative not exceeding 6," on mount verso. 1950

Provenance: Houk Gallery, Chicago; to the Collection of Dr. James and Debra Pearl

Irving Penn started his seminal Small Trades series while in Paris shooting for Vogue magazine. Inspired by Eugène Atget's series of tradespeople and Walker Evans' social documentary work, Penn had his assistants seek out subjects and invite them to his studio. Unlike Atget and Evans, Penn chose to portray his subjects in the studio, employing his now-iconic neutral background and natural light. The figures are isolated from their environments and shot from slightly below, both revealing their individuality and conferring a transformation to icon.

The subjects each received a small cash payment for coming to a sitting, and butchers, pastry chefs, and bike messengers started mingling among the high fashion models in his Paris studio. Penn found such inspiration in the series it quickly became his largest comprehensive body of work, expanding to over 200 portraits in two years. Shooting in Paris, London, and New York allowed Penn to not only capture the "everyday worker," but also the cultural differences of these major cities at the time.