The subtitle of this exhibition at the Biblioteque National de France, is “Old World New Look”. Avedon was always highly influenced by Paris and Parisian style. While working for Harper’s Bazaar he travelled every year to Paris. In the sixties he collaborated with Jacques Henri Lartigue and then with Nicole Wisniak on the magazine “Egoiste”. The exhibition contains a number of images from both these collaborations. The image of Marguerite Durras, a writer for Egoiste and one of my favourite writers, was hilarious. My image of her, up to this point, was that of a serious writer but this was a very amusing image of a lady of advancing years. Avedon’s work on Diary of a Century is shown both in a projection and in displayed pages of the book.
The exhibition opens with the work Avedon did on the movie, Funny Face. He made beautiful stills of Audrey Hepburn from the film sequences. These are displayed in huge format on the walls with the film sequences on small screens below. He was also responsible for the film titles.
For me the best section of the exhibition was the French Portraits. Notwithstanding the fact that the “French” portraits contained a number of people who were definitely not French… Among these I spotted Francis Bacon and Samuel Beckett. However I have to admit that Beckett lived most of his adult life in Paris and Bacon was a frequent visitor being heavily influenced by what was going on in France. Bacon presumably met Avedon in Paris perhaps while he was exhibiting there. These small criticisms aside, I loved Avedon’s large and small portraits. There were more than forty including Marc Chagall,
Catherine Deneuve, Pablo Picasso (come to think of it he was Spanish…) and Igor Stravinsky was Russian….
These portraits captured something of the soul of the sitters. They were splendid. Although this is a small exhibition the BnF is a great exhibition space and displays Avedon’s work at its best.