Photographer Richard Avedon (American, 1923–2004) is renowned for his striking, intimate, and dynamic portraits of prominent 20th century figures, as well as images of mental patients, circus performers, and others living on the fringes of society. Born in New York, Avedon joined the military in 1942 before graduating high school, and after returning to the United States in 1944, began working as a department store photographer.

He was employed by Harper’s Bazaar art director Alexey Brodovitch a year later, and upon shooting several successful spreads for the magazine, opened his own studio. Working for Vogue, Look, and other publications, Avedon made his living in advertising photography while increasingly photographing celebrities. Renowned for his minimalist aesthetic, Avedon often cropped the frame of his photographs or shot his subjects amidst an action, creating works with a candid, elegant, and intimate feel. Avedon has also worked on several portrait books of distinguished figures of the 20th century, in volumes such as Observations, a collaboration with writer Truman Capote. In later series, Avedon photographed mentally ill individuals in hospitals, chronicled his own father’s losing battle with cancer, and in his series In the American West, photographed ordinary citizens such as farmers, miners, and other representatives of working-class America. Avedon has received immense critical acclaim for both his polished celebrity portraits and for his series on everyday Americans, capturing both a dignity and immediacy in his images.

He continued to photograph for Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and later, The New Yorker before his death in 2004. Avedon has been honored with awards from the Royal Photographic Society, the International Center of Photography, and Americans for the Arts. His work has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the International Center of Photography in New York, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museo Guggenheim in Bilbao, among many other institutions.

Timeline

1923
Born in New York, USA
1942–1944
Served in the U.S. Merchant Marines
1985
Named Photographer of the Year, American Society of Magazine Photographers
1986–1987
Recipient, Certificate of Recognition, Visiting Artist, Harvard University
1989
Awarded Honorary Doctorate, Royal College of Art, London, England
1993
Recipient, Master of Photography Award, International Center of Photography
1993
Awarded Honorary Doctorate, Kenyon College
1994
"EVIDENCE" is awarded Prix Nadar by the Bibliotheque Nationale for "Best Photographic Book"
1994
Awarded Honorary Doctorate, Parsons School of Design
1996
Recipient Humanitarian Award, Mental Health Association of New York City
1998
Recipient Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts, Alliance for Young Artists & Writers
2000
Awarded Photo District News: Most Influential Photographer of the Last Twenty Years
2003
Recipient Royal Photographic Society, 150th Anniversary Medal
2003
Recipient Arts & Business Council, Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Visual Arts
2003
Recipient Americans for the Arts, National Arts Award: Lifetime Achievement
2004
Died in San Antonio, USA

Exhibitions

2007
"Americans: Meisterwerke amerikanischer Fotografie von 1940 bis heute," Kunsthalle Wien (Halle 1, Halle 2), Vienna, Austria
2007
"The Heartbeat of Fashion: Sammlung F. C. Gundlach," Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Germany
2006
"Eye of the Beholder," Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, USA
2006
"Brighton Photo Biennial," Brighton, England
2006
"In the American West: Photographs by Richard Avedon," Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, USA
2006
"American Icons," Corkin Shopland Gallery, Toronto, Canada
2006
"Rostros y Máscaras," Museo de Arte Abstracto Español, Cuenca, Spain
2005
"Keeping Shadows: Photography from the Worcester Art Museum," Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, USA
2005
"Hablando con las manos: Fotografías de la Colección Buhl," Museo Guggenheim de Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo, Bilbao, Spain
2005
"From the Source: Fashion Photographs," Corkin Shopland Gallery, Toronto, Canada
2005
"Summer of Love Art of the Psychedelic Era," Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, England
2005
"FABULOUS PHOTOGRAPHIC EPHEMERA," The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, USA
2005
"Richard Avedon," Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, USA
2004
"About Face: Photographic Portraits from the Collection," The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA
2004
"Photography from the Book to the Museum," Museu Nacional dArt de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
2004
"Das Wunder Mensch/Parameter of Life," Museum Moderner Kunst, Stiftung Wörlen, Passau, Germany
2003
"A Clear Vision: Photographic Works from the F.C. Gundlach Collection," Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Germany
2003
"VANITY FAIR," Torch Gallery, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2003
"Flesh Tones: 100 Years of the Nude," Robert Mann Gallery, New York, USA
2003
"Richard Avedon: Andy Warhol and the Factory [1969], The Family [1976]," Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, USA
2002
"Transformer II," Air de Paris, Paris, France
2002
"Richard Avedon: In the American West," Fundación La Caixa, CaixaForum, Barcelona, Spain
2002
"Americans: Meisterwerke der amerikanischen Photographie," Museum Moderner Kunst, Stiftung Wörlen, Passau, Germany
2002
"Accrochage d´hiver: Photographies contemporaines," Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris, France
2001
"Dressing Up," Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, USA
2001
"Richard Avedon: Made in France," Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, USA
2001
"Avedon’s American West," Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, USA
2001
"Richard Avedon: In the American West," Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg, Germany
2001
"The Contemporary Face: Von Pablo Picasso bis Alex Katz," Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Germany
2001
"More than One," Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, USA
1999–2000
Early Portraits, Fraenkel Gallery San Francisco, USA
1994–1995
Richard Avedon: Evidence 1944-1994 (Retrospective), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA
1991
Brandenburg Gate, East Berlin, New Year's Eve, December 31, 1989 - January 1, 1990, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, USA
1985
In the American West 1979-1984 (Portraits), Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, USA
1980
Avedon: Retrospective 1946-1980 (Portraits, reportage, fashion retrospective), University Art Museum Berkeley, USA
1978
Avedon: Photographs 1947-1977, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
1975
Portraits 1969-1975, Marlborough Gallery, New York, USA
1974
Jacob Israel Avedon (Portraits of the photographer's father), Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
1970
Richard Avedon (Portrait Retrospective 1945-1970), Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, USA
1962
Richard Avedon (Retrospective), Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Public Collections

FAIF Collection, Zurich, Switzerland