I’m not so much interested in documenting as in expressing
my impressions of the individuals with the constantly expanding narrative
means of my medium. —Arnold Newman
Piet Mondrian behind his easel, Igor Stravinsky
at his piano, Max Ernst sitting smoking on his throne-like
chair: the photographs of Arnold Newman (1918-2006) are classics of portraiture.
His subtle arrangements constituted the foundations of “environmental
portraiture.” His photographs integrate the respective artist’s characteristic
equipment and surroundings, thus indicating his or her field of activity.
The enormous fame of Newman’s portraits can be ascribed to their daring
compositions and sometimes astounding spatial structures.
The photographer’s beginnings, however, were none too promising. During
the Great Depression, Newman had to abandon his art studies for financial
reasons. Between 1938 and 1942 he concentrated on socio-documentary photography
in the ghettos of West Palm Beach, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. One might
think that being forced to earn his living in a photography studio would
have stifled his artistic potential: Newman portrayed up to 70 clients
a day. Yet he still succeeded in developing a very personal touch and
establishing himself in the New York art scene of the early 1940s. His
subjects included Marcel Duchamp, Marc Chagall, Jackson Pollock,
Willem de Kooning, and Alexander Calder among many others. With
his unmistakable style, Newman became the star photographer of artists,
writers, and musicians.
This new edition, which includes recent work and an updated biography,
provides a sweeping overview of Newman’s illustrious career.
The author: Philip Brookman is curator of photography and media art at
the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington. Brookman’s projects include the
exhibition and book Half Past Autumn: The Art of Gordon Parks, and the
touring exhibitions and books Raised by Wolves: Photographs and Documents
by Jim Goldberg, and Hospice: A Photographic Inquiry for the Corcoran