Among the significant projects of the last year of his life, Richard Avedon (1923-2004) completed a book of his photographs of women. Always transcending categorization-he was both a fashion photographer and known as a “poet of portraiture”-Avedon was interested in seeing how elemental facts of modern life and human existence were reflected in his work. And what could be more elemental than women, who have mesmerized artists across the centuries?
Looking at his work in this way, Avedon was able to create an unparalleled view of women in his time, a tumultuous half century of rapidly changing social facts, cultural ideals, popular styles, and high fashion. As an artist, Avedon was deeply responsive to nuances of expression, gesture, and comportment, and his photographs unfailingly opened a window to the interior lives of his subjects. These ranged from celebrities (Marilyn Monroe), artists (Marguerite Duras, June Leaf), and high-fashion models (Suzy Parker, Dovima) to anonymous people that simply drew his attention. Like the best of art and literature, they evoke rich lives and complex experiences.
An incisive essay by art historian Anne Hollander offers an overview of a half century of Avedon’s images of women.