The Puzzle of Irving Penn

Whether longstanding editorial director of Condé Nast Alexander Liberman’s harsh assessment of Irving Penn was spurred by poisonous envy or contained a kernel of truth, the Penn show now at the Met suggests that the master photographer’s commercial work laid the foundation for his deeply original contribution to the medium. Indeed, the Met’s splendid overview of this grand obsessive proves that his supposedly Faustian bargain was not such a bad deal after all.

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