Richard Avedon, Bob Dylan, singer, New York City, February 10, 1965, 1965, gelatin silver print, 14 x 10,9 inches, Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection, © The Richard Avedon Foundation.

Richard Avedon, The Mission Council, Saigon, South Vietnam, April 28, 1971, 1975, gelatin silver print, 119,5 x 390,1 inches, Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection, © The Richard Avedon Foundation.

The Art, Cunning, and Politic of a Fashion Photographer without Limits

Richard Avedon, Andy Warhol and members of The Factory: Gerard Malanga, poet; Viva, actress; Paul Morrissey, director; Taylor Mead, actor; Bridig Polk, actress; Joe Dallesandro, actor; Andy Warhol, artist, 1993, gelatin silver print, 34 x 42 inches, Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection, © The Richard Avedon Foundation.

Richard Avedon, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, poets, New York, December 30, 1963, undated, gelatin silver print, 10,9 x 14 inches, Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection, © The Richard Avedon Foundation.

Richard Avedon, Marilyn Monroe, actress, New York City, May 6, 1957, 1957, gelatin silver print, 19,9 x 15,9 inches, Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection, © The Richard Avedon Foundation.

Richard Avedon, Mike Bencich, Dan Ashberger, Coal Miners, Somerset, Colorado, August 29, 1980, 1984-85, gelatin silver print, 59,6 x 47,1 inches, Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection, © The Richard Avedon Foundation.


Museum Brandhorst
Theresienstraße 35
+ 49 89 238052286
Richard Avedon. Murals and Portraits

July 18-November 9, 2014

Richard Avedon (1923–2004) is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential fashion photographers of the second half of the twentieth century. From 1945 to 1965 he worked for Harper’s Bazaar. Right from the start of his career, his theatrically staged yet strikingly dynamic images of the key fashion trends of the time captured and defined the ‘look’ of the moment. In 1966 he joined Vogue where he held the position of staff photographer until 1990. From 1980 he photographed the annual advertising campaigns for Gianni Versace; from 1985 he worked for the French magazine Egoïste, from 1992 for The New Yorker.

The presentation at Museum Brandhorst skirts this fairly well known aspect of Avedon’s oeuvre which has already been documented in numerous exhibitions. Instead it focuses on other areas of the photographer’s work. In addition to straightforward fashion shoots, which secured the financial basis of his practice, Avedon was commissioned to produce portraits of public figures to illustrate magazine articles about them. The ensemble of these portraits forms a panorama of the cultural and political elites of America. Another early interest was the everyday life of anonymous people in the streets of southern Italy and New York. Avedon’s reportage-like series, which remained unpublished for decades, bear witness to the photographer’s social commitment which led him to champion the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

Against the backdrop of America’s social and political upheavals of the late 1960s, Avedon embarked on the production of four large-scale photographic murals that occupy a key position in the history of the medium. Between 6.5 and 10 metres wide and 2.5 to more than 3 metres in height, the pictures present the sitters – some of them larger than life – positioned frontally and lined up against a stark white backcloth. Shot in black and white, the shadowless group portraits are notable for their rigorous clarity and unflinching objectivity that seem to undermine the aesthetic autonomy of the works, so that they are not instantly perceived as art. Their powerful impact is primarily the result of the intensity and immediacy of the confrontation between the viewer and the photographs – or rather the people shown in them.

The exhibition at Museum Brandhorst presents three of Avedon’s four murals: Allan Ginsberg’s Family (3 May 1970) shows the eminent poet and doyen of the Beat generation with his extended family.

Andy Warhol and Members of the Factory (30 October 1969) is of particular interest as it complements the sizable holdings of Warhol’s work at Museum Barandhorst. Mission Council (28 April 1971) was made in Saigon during the Vietnam War and shows the commander of the American Forces and a group of government officials from Washington.

Unfortunately, the lack of space means that The Chicago Seven (5 November 1969) cannot be part of the present exhibition. The mural shows a group of left-wing intellectuals who had protested against the 1968 Democratic National Convention. They were arrested and charged with conspiracy and with crossing state lines with the intent to incite a riot. Presided over by an overtly hostile judge and driven by specious arguments from the prosecutors, the trial went down in history as a legal farce.

Unlike the exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, where the four murals were shown in the summer of 2012 alongside a selection of thematically related works, the presentation of the murals at Museum Brandhorst is complemented by three different groups of works. The first of these is a selection of poignant portraits, the earliest of which date to the 1950s. The broad spectrum ranges from Brigitte Bardot and Marilyn Monroe to Francis Bacon, Truman Capote and Bob Dylan as well as Samuel Beckett, Ezra Pound, Marcel Duchamp and Buster Keaton. The physicist Robert Oppenheimer and the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, mark the extremes of the political spectrum of the American Civil Rights conflict.

Another group consists of photographs taken in a psychiatric hospital in Louisiana in 1963. They reveal a different, darker side of society. Some of the patients seem to be aware of their situation and their fate, while others appear to be in a kind of trance as though they had been heavily sedated.

The final group consists of images commissioned by the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Between 1979 and 1984 Avedon travelled through seventeen states of the American West and took pictures of miners, farmers, factory workers, vagrants and socially marginalised people. The series In the American West vividly captures the demise of the oil and coal production and other sectors of the economy. A selection of the large-format (152 x 120 cm) images presents Avedon in a different light and corrects the perception of the artist as merely a commercial fashion photographer.

In the American West shows the flipside of the great American Dream, but the series also bears witness to the pride and dignity of the sitters in the face of hardship and scant hope for a better future.

Richard Avedon won numerous prestigious awards and his work continues to be exhibited and collected by leading museums in America and Europe. The critically acclaimed retrospective of his work held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in the summer of 1994 travelled to Cologne. In 2001 the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg presented the exhibition In the American West, and the exhibition hotographs 1946–2004, organised by the Louisiana Museum in Humlebaek in 2007, was shown at the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin the following year. These exhibitions (to name but a few) and the scores of publications about his work testify to the respect Avedon enjoys in Germany.

The exhibition at Museum Brandhorst marks the first presentation of works by Richard Avedon from the holdings of the Udo and Anette Brandhorst Foundation. Apart from the mural Mission Council, these consist of more than thirty portraits and photographs from the series In the American West. They are complemented by a handful of loans from private collections, while all other works are provided courtesy of the Richard Avedon Foundation in New York, without whose generous support this exhibition could never have been realised. The Gagosian Gallery assisted in the organisation and installation of the exhibition in Munich.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by Hirmer Verlag with essays on several aspects of Avedon’s work by, among others, Bob Rubin, William Shawcross and Paul Roth. The catalogue can be purchased at the museum at the price of ca. €59.

Richard Avedon, Samuel Beckett, writer, Paris, France, April 13, 1979, 1993, gelatin silver print, 48,5 x 75,8 inches, Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection, © The Richard Avedon Foundation.

Richard Avedon, Andy Warhol and members of The Factory: Andy Warhol, artist; Paul Morrissey, director; Joe Dallesandro, actor; Candy Darling, actor, New York, May 21, 1970, 1993, gelatin silver print, 34 x 42 inches, Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection, © The Richard Avedon Foundation.


Richard Avedon (1923-2004), Penelope Tree, Dress by Halston, Paris, January, 1968.

The Man Who Shaped the Image of the Modern Fashionable Woman

Richard Avedon (1923-2004), Suzy Parker with Robin Tattersall, Dress by Dior, Place de la Concorde, Paris, 1956.

Richard Avedon (1923-2004), Veruschka, Dress by Kimberly, New York, January 1967.

Richard Avedon (1923-2004), Dorian Leigh, Hat by Paulette, Paris Studio, 1949.

Richard Avedon (1923-2004), Donyale Luna, Dress by Paco Rabanne, New York, December, 1966.

Richard Avedon (1923-2004), Sunny Harnett, Evening Dress by Gres, Casino, Le Toquet, France, august, 1954.

Richard Avedon (1923-2004), Jade Parfitt and Esther De Jong in Art Deco ensembles, by Galliano, New York City, March 26, 1998.


Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Foster Gallery
Avedon Fashion 1944-2000
August 10, 2010-January 17, 2011

Avedon Fashion 1944-2000 examines Richard Avedon’s years as a photographer who shaped the image of the fashionable woman, drawing from thousands of pictures he took as staff photographer for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. It unfolds by decade, with the greatest emphasis on the classic work from the 1950s and 1960s, when his distinct vision of the ideal American woman revolutionized magazine photography.

Avedon (1923-2004) brought fashion photography to life. Instead of perpetuating static images of human mannequins posing stiffly in magazines, Avedon depicted his models as real women whose energy and exuberance complemented their modern lifestyles. Considered one of the great image-makers of the 20th century, he redefined fashion photography and his lasting contributions are explored in the traveling exhibition Avedon Fashion 1944–2000, a major retrospective devoted exclusively to his work in this medium. The exhibition highlights approximately 140 objects, including photographs, magazines, engravers’ prints, and contact sheets that span almost six decades of his successful career.

“Richard Avedon was one of the greatest photographers of all time, who forever transformed the way we look at fashion. The MFA is delighted to be able to showcase his supremely stylish and important work,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The exhibition begins with elegant, romantic, and lively images taken in Paris, where he visited extensively from 1947 to 1965 on assignment for Harper’s Bazaar. Despite the bleakness of the post-war years, Paris still represented the height of sophistication, and Avedon infused his photographs with a sense of optimism, helping the City of Light reclaim its position as the capital of the fashion world. The photographer created imaginative narratives — sometimes continued through several issues of the magazine — highlighting couture collections and featuring his favorite models: Dorian Leigh, her sister Suzy Parker, Sunny Harnett, Dovima, Carmen, Elise Daniels, and even his wife, Doe Avedon. He took these smartly outfitted women out of the studio and photographed them in French locales: Daniels, dressed in a Balenciaga suit, watching street performers in the Marais district in 1948; Harnett, in an evening dress by Grès, playing roulette at the Casino in Le Touquet, France, in 1954; and Parker, draped in a Grès gown, sitting near cancan dancers at the Moulin Rouge in 1957. Avedon’s famous night scenes in Paris, which began in 1954, broadened his creative range. Like movie sets, the complex fashion shoots he directed used generators to light up entire city blocks, allowing him to capture stylish bon vivants enjoying Parisian nightlife.

During his early years at Harper’s Bazaar, fashion photographs by Avedon were more than just a vehicle to market luxurious clothing to post-World War II American women — they were the embodiment of a dynamic lifestyle. His expressive images celebrated spirited women laughing, jumping, and dancing—even roller skating in Paris — all while wearing the most beautiful clothes.

“Those candid snapshots were in direct contrast to what was being done. I came in at a time when there weren’t any young photographers working in a free way. Everyone was tired, the war was over, Dior let the skirts down, and suddenly everything was fun. It was historically a marvelous moment for a fashion photographer to begin. I think if I were starting today, it would be much harder,” said Avedon in 1965.

The son of a women’s clothing store owner (Avedon’s Fifth Avenue), he became fascinated with fashion photography as a boy. As a young man, he joined the Merchant Marine (1942-44), where he was assigned to the photography division. After leaving the service, Avedon enrolled in design classes, taught by Alexey Brodovitch, art director of Harper’s Bazaar, at New School for Social Research. In 1944, at age 21, he joined the magazine, primarily as a photographer for Junior Bazaar and shortly after, became an official staff photographer, working with the now legendary figures Carmel Snow, Brodovitch, and Diana Vreeland.

During the height of his career, Avedon became fashion photography’s most influential and prolific practitioner. His style was energetic and playful, with a flair for the dramatic, and while Avedon’s location shoots were groundbreaking, his major studio shots were also ingeniously inventive. The photographer illustrated the excitement of the “new look” of Dior — featuring cinched waists and voluminous circle skirts — by showing his model twirling on a Parisian street (Renée, “The New Look of Dior,” Place de la Concorde, Paris, August 1947). He developed the “Avedon blur” using variable focus, a technique creating a subtle background scene while highlighting the model in the foreground, as seen in an image of a well-turned ankle showing off a fur-trimmed bootie in front of the softly visible Eiffel Tower (Shoe by Perugia, Place du Trocadero, Paris, August 1948). Avedon also liked to show models “behind-the-scenes”—sitting at a café, seemingly in tears (Elise Daniels, turban by Paulette, Rue François-Premier, Paris, August 1948); assessing an outfit in the mirror (Dorian Leigh, evening dress by Piguet, Helena Rubenstein’s apartment, Île Saint-Louis, Paris, August 1949); or shown within the backdrop of a studio set (Suzy Parker, evening dress by Dior, Paris, August 1956). In many of his photographs, dogs and other animals share center stage with the models — Dovima in a Balenciaga suit and Sacha, an afghan, sitting next to one another outdoors at the Café des Deux Magots, Paris (1955), or Dovima in a Dior evening dress, alongside elephants at the Cirque d’Hiver (1955) — one of the photographer’s iconic images.

“Avedon was one of the most engaging image-makers of the 20th century. He revolutionized fashion photography with his dynamic images that set an ideal of the modern American woman. His enormous success led to great fame, and the status he attracted helped define the role of the high-profile fashion photographer that we are familiar with today,” said Anne Havinga, the MFA’s Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Senior Curator of Photographs, who is responsible for the show in Boston with Emily Voelker, the MFA’s Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Assistant Curator of Photographs. The exhibition was curated by Carol Squiers, curator, and Vince Aletti, guest curator, for the International Center of Photography (ICP), in conjunction with The Richard Avedon Foundation, New York.

Avedon’s innovative approach enlivened the vocabulary of fashion photography, and even made him famous. The 1957 movie musical Funny Face is loosely based on Avedon, who served as the visual consultant for the production. Starring Fred Astaire as “Dick Avery,” a photographer working in New York and Paris, it co-starred Audrey Hepburn as his muse, a model chosen for her spirit and intelligence. Avedon’s own models were not only beautiful, but also embodied the idealized American woman, who had wit, personality, confidence, and a sense of adventure. They also reflected Avedon’s awareness of social and cultural changes. He was the first major photographer to use models of color, such as China Machado, a Portuguese-Chinese beauty he featured in the 1950s, or Donyale Luna, a sinewy model of African, Mexican, Egyptian, and Irish descent he worked with in the 1960s. His images elevated many of his models to celebrity status, especially in the 1960s and ’70s, when he worked with Jean Shrimpton, Lauren Hutton, Anjelica Huston, Twiggy, Penelope Tree, and Veruschka. In the 1980s and ’90s, his photographs helped bring supermodel fame to Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and Stephanie Seymour.

Avedon Fashion 1944-2000 includes a wide range of photographs that document the 1960s era, when advances in technology and demands for social reform became part of the evolving modern American experience. Among them are Avedon’s pictures of models wearing the “mod” fashions of the period at Cape Canaveral near an Atlas missile, or in the spacesuit-inspired fashions of André Courrèges, as seen in the famous April 1965 Harper’s Bazaar, the magazine’s 20th anniversary edition, which Avedon guest edited. The cover featured a Pop Art-inspired photograph by Avedon of Shrimpton in a day-glo pink helmet — the same photograph that appears on the cover of the exhibition’s catalogue, Avedon Fashion 1944-2000 (Abrams, New York, 2009). The photographer also embraced changing social mores with his forays into imagery that included nudity, or were discreetly erotic, as seen in his depiction of a suggested “ménage a trois” (Natty Abascal and Ana-Maria Abascal with model Helio Guerreiro, bathing suit by Brigance, Ibiza, Spain, September 1964).

In 1966, Avedon joined Vogue, where Vreelend had become its editor-in-chief. He captured the youthful brashness of the 1960s and turned Brooke Shields, Isabella Rossellini, and Barbra Streisand into fashion icons. With Vreeland’s approval, he also sought out quirky, unconventionally beautiful models, such as the wide-eyed waifs Penelope Tree and Twiggy, for his compelling photographs featuring Pop Art and “mod”-inspired fashions. Avedon’s work was included in most issues of Vogue until the mid 1970s. Vreeland was dismissed from the magazine in 1971, but Avedon stayed on, taking every cover photograph after 1980 until he quit in 1988. Avedon also photographed many imaginative advertising campaigns during his long career for clients including Versace, Calvin Klein, and Dior. In 1992, he was named the first staff photographer for The New Yorker, where his post-apocalyptic, wild fashion fable “In Memory of the Late Mr. and Mrs. Comfort,” featuring model Nadja Auermann and a skeleton, was published in 1995. In these later years, Avedon continued to contribute to Egoïste, a journal of fashion and the arts, where his photographs appeared from 1984 through 2000. He also pursued his own work as a portraitist, photojournalist, and the author of photography books until his death in 2004. His innovations are still evident in portraiture and fashion photography today.

The exhibition was organized by the International Center of Photography (ICP) with the cooperation of The Richard Avedon Foundation, New York; Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco; and Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York. The exhibition and its catalogue were made possible with a major lead grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. Additional support was received from the ICP Exhibitions Committee, National Endowment for the Arts, Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Clémence and William von Mueffling, Mary Ann and Frank Arisman, Harper's Bazaar, The John and Annamaria Phillips Foundation, Joseph and Joan Cullman Foundation for the Arts, Mark McCain and Yolanda Cuomo from Yolanda Cuomo Design. The exhibition is supported at the MFA by the Robert and Jane Burke Fund for Exhibitions and the Barbara Jane Anderson Fund. The media sponsor is The Boston Phoenix. Avedon Fashion 1944–2000 debuted in 2009 at the International Center of Photography in New York before traveling to the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach.

The sumptuous 371-page catalogue, Avedon Fashion 1944-2000 (Abrams, New York, 2009), by Carol Squiers, curator, and Vince Aletti, guest curator, of the International Center of Photography, features more than 300 black-and-white and color photographs. It is available in hardcover for $100 in the MFA Bookstore and Shop or at or at

Richard Avedon (1923-2004), Naty Abascal and Ana-Maria Abascal with Helio Guerreiro, Bathing Suit by Brigance, Ibiza, Spain, 1964.