08 October 2009

Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn

Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn. model. muse. rare beauty. wife. All linked to Irving Penn-her husband-who died
October 7, 2009 at the age of 92.

Fonssagrives by Penn

Photographer David Seidner said in the Lisa Fonssagrives book by Vendome Press- "It is difficult to imagine the history of fashion photography without thinking of Lisa Fonssagives-Penn." More than Penn, famous photographers of the day flocked to photograph the rare bird. She would always give them their best shot. Penn adored L. as evidenced in the countless iconic collaborative photographs the pair produced over their 40 years together.

David Seidner a photographer extraordinaire now gone as well-photographed LFP in the summer of 1990. He had taken friendly snaps of her-the two had developed a close friendship over the years-but Seidner was unprepared for his first look into the lens at LFP-the Model. He remembered being "dumbstruck and thrilled. Lisa Fonssagrives that magical, musical name conjuring countless images reappearing through my lens... She molded herself into that familiar vision of perfection."

"Lisa maintained a kind of Zen detachment from all the false importance of the fashionable. She was pure and good and marvelously old fashioned." DS

Fonssagrives in Rochas by Penn

The image of LFP in the Rochas mermaid dress is considered by Seidner to one of the two images defining post war zeitgeist. (The second- Richard Avedon's Dovima with the elephants.) Seidner called the Penns "collaborators in smuggling art onto the printed page."

LFP wrote to Seidner... do not mature, maturity is rot, I don't believe in it, and too much thinking is harmful to your artistic health. One can't throw in the towel, that would be living death. It is here, in our private work we must stand, naked in honesty, in front of that tyrannical god, who is our soul- our heads bowed-reaching for that higher innocence required for the guest of art. LFP

Lisa Bernstone Fonssagrives-Penn May 17, 1911 – February 4, 1992

David Seidner February 19,1957- June 6,1999

Irving Penn June 16, 1917 – October 7, 2009

article about Penn and Seidner here
more David Seidner here
DS and LFP Interview in Bomb Magazine where the original material quoted above & reprinted in the Vendome book appeared here


  1. oh, such a very, very nice post....

  2. Such rarefied beauty. Both the model and the photos.

  3. This is a fitting tribute to a man who obviously admired women. Not just racks and as the photographer said they were creating something beyond fashion. Irving Penn is the last of the great ones as you say. Interesting perspective on his death

  4. She's stunning.

    I was lucky enough to find a book of his flower photographs at Book Thing last year. Gorgeous!

  5. True all. Meg-that is a gorgeous book. lucky you. GT

  6. How unsettling about Penn. I was just looking at some older magazines and realizing that when younger, I preferred the work of Avedon, but it is Irving Penn whose work impresses me now. It was partly based on a perusal of my long out of print edition of Avedon &
    Capote's 1959 book Observations. Those images once thrilled me; and now I find myself thinking: So what?

  7. Mr Worthington-I hope you will go read the Seidner piece with LFP. It is a lovely story about their friendship. Penn is eternal-I went through the LFP book and marveled. I do love several of my Avedon books- the best being Made In France. The last one was a disappointment to me. GT

  8. A beautiful tribute to the artist through the eyes of his muse and admirer. A nice way to remember Penn.

  9. What a stunning woman. I am crazy about her look. One not to be repeated in this lifetime. Lovely tribute. AW



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