Lucien Clergue (1934–2014) was a filmmaker, author, and photographer known for his masterful compositions and innovative use of light and shadow. Born in Arles, Clergue initially studied the violin before picking up a camera for the first time in the early 1950s. During the early part of his career, the artist befriended Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso, both of whom supported his work. In particular, Clergue’s photographs of Picasso, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship, would become iconic, along with his images of bullfighting, gypsies, and nudes, all of which explore themes of life and death.

In the 1960s, he became increasingly involved in filmmaking, producing dozens of films over the course of his career, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his documentary Delta del Sel in 1967. In addition, he traveled to the United States for the first time in 1961, where he was deeply influenced by the American landscape and the photographs of artists such as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. In addition, his time spent in the US inspired Clergue to establish the Arles Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie, a festival held in Arles incorporating theater, dance, music, and art, and which played an important role in establishing France’s prominence in the global photography market.

In 2003, Clergue was named a knight of the Légion d’honneur, and received the 2007 Lucie Award. He also went on to become the first photographer elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he served as president in 2013.

The artist died in Nîmes at the age of 80.

Timeline

1934
Born in Arles, France
1959
Guest photographer on Jean Cocteau’s film Le Testament d’Orphée
1966
Recieved the Louis Lumière Prize for his film Le drame du Taureau
1969
Founded the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie in Arles with Jean-Maurice Rouquette and Michel Tournier
1974
Clergue is elected a member of the Académie in Arles, France
1979
Recieved the National Order of Merit from President Giscard d’Estaing, France
Recieved a doctorate in photography at the Université de Provence, Marseille, Franced
1986
Awarded Photographer of the Year by the Foto Fietsa in Higeshikawa, Japan
2003
Presented with the decoration Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by French president Jacques Chirac
2005
Awarded the Lucie Award for the Outstanding Life Achievement in Fine Arts in Photography
2014
Died in Nîmes, France

Exhibitions

2011
Testament of Orpheus, 1959, Westwood Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2009
Lucien Clergue : The Intimate Picasso, Louis Stern Fine Arts, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
2007
Lucien Clergue, Pierre Menard Gallery, Cambridge, MA (solo)
2006
Lucien Clergue: Fifty Years of Photography - Vintage and Recent Works, Louis Stern Fine Arts, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
2005
John Stevenson Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2004
Recontres Internationales de la Photographie, Abbaye de Montmajour, Arles, France (solo)
2003
Retrospectif: Lucien Clergue, FLATFILEgalleries, Chicago, IL (solo)
2002
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nîmes, France (solo)
1999
Retrospective exhibition, Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Dortmund, Germany (solo)
1998
4 Decades of Photography, SoHo Triad Fine Arts, New York, NY
1997
Signs of Gods and Goddesses: Four Decades of Lucien Clergue’s Photography, UCR California Museum of Photography, Riverside, CA (solo)
1993
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
1991
Picasso-Clergue on Bullfights, Jan Krugier Gallery, New York, NY
1986
Retrospective ICP, Middle Town Building, New York, NY (solo)
1985
International Center of Photography, New York, NY (solo)
Retrospective, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY (solo)
1973
ICA, London, England (solo)
1962
Pavillion de Marsan, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France (solo)
1961
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

Public Collections

Museum of Modern Art, NY, NY
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
Harvard University Art Museum, MA
Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN
Lucien Clergue in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Database
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, MI
Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College, Chicago, IL

Literature

2005
Lucien Clergue: histoire d’a, Edizioni del Museo, Brescia, Italy
Portraits, Actes Sud, Arles, France
2003
Poésie Photographique, preface by Manfred Heiting, edited by E-M. Turck, Prestel Verlag, Munich, Germany
1996
Phèdre. La suprême déclaration d’amour, texts by A. Delbée, J & D, Biarritz, France
1985
Lucien Clergue, Eros and Thanatos, texts by M. Tournier and M. Fulton, New York Graphic Society, Boston, MA
1964
Lucien Clergue, Photographe, Die Arche Verlag, Zurich, Switzerland
1960
Poesie der Fotographie, introduction by J. Cocteau, DuMont Shauberg, Cologne, Germany
1957
Corps mémorable, poems by P. Eluard, Seghers, Paris, France