Philippe Halsman studied at Dresden's Technical University and at the Paris' Sorbonne. In Paris he studied the work of other artists and photographers, especially the Surrealists, from whom he learned to create images that surprised his viewers, combining glamour, sex and wholesome energy in one portrait, and making him later one of Life's favorite photographers for sensual stars like Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot.
Halsman set up his studio in Paris in 1932. Soon his portraits of actors and authors appeared on book jackets and in magazines. By 1936, Halsman was known as one of the best portrait photographers working in France.
Through the intervention of his friend Albert Einstein, Halsman eventually obtained a visa to enter the United States after the Nazi invasion of Paris in 1940. Settling in New York, his first major break came in the fall of 1942, when Life commissioned him a shoot. Over one hundred more covers followed before the magazine folded in 1972, a record unmatched by any other photographer.
From the 1940s through he 1970s, Halsman sparkling portraits of celebrities, intellectuals and politicians appeared on the covers and pages of big picture magazines including Look, Esquire, Saturday Evening Post, Paris Match, and, as already mentioned, Life. Best remembered for his Marilyn Monroe portraits, other celebrities included Woody
Allen, Marlon Brando, Bogart, Churchill, Jean Cocteau, Dali, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Liz Taylor, Louis Amstrong, Vivien Leigh, Albert Einstein and Audrey Hepburn.
Halsman's sympathy for surrealism led to his long productive friendship with Salvador Dali whom he met in 1941. Over the next decades they became partners in numerous projects.
Jordan-Delhaise Gallery's collection of portraits of Eva Gabor (1949), Anita Gillette (3) (1951), Ann Richards (1944), Jean Simmons (1950), Elaine Stewart (2) (1953, one a Life cover), Judy Holiday, in her Broadway hit The Bells Are Ringing (1956), and Eddie Cantor (1952) truly illustrate the breadth of Halsman's expressive portraiture talents.
In the mid 1950s, Halsman started producing his famous jump pictures, capturing noteworthy people from Richard Nixon to the Duchess of Windsor, mid-air, jumping for the camera.
Other important photographs in Jordan-Delhaise Gallery's collection include a portrait of Jacques Tati (1954), the influential French moviemaker, gangbuster Thomas E. Dewey (1965) and poet Randall Jarrell (1958), in addition to Peep Show (1950), and Ballerina's (1952), two Life covers.
Halsman's work also appeared in advertisements for clients including Elizabeth Arden, NBC, Simon & Schuster, and Ford.
Halsman exhibited widely, including at the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art. In 1979, a retrospective was held at the New York International Center for Photography and in 1998-1999, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington organized Halsman's definitive retrospective. In 2001, that exhibition toured in London and Paris.
Halsman was a member of the American Society of Magazine Photographers as well as its first President.
Halsman was the author of Jump Book (Harry Abrams) and Sight and Insight (Watson-Guptill Publications) published in 1959 and 1972 respectively.
(Adapted by Michel G. Delhaise, Jordan-Delhaise Gallery, Ltd. from Mary Panzer, Curator of Photographs, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Philippe Halsman: A Retrospective - Photographs from the Halsman Family Collection [exhibition catalogue] and other sources)