Currier Gallery of Art

Manchester, NH



Philipe Halsman: A Retrospective


From the 1940s through the 1970s, Philippe Halsman's (1906-1979) portraits of world famous figures appeared on the covers, and in the pages, of the major picture magazines, such as Look and the Saturday Evening Post. Life magazine published 101 covers by Halsman, a record unmatched by any other photographer. The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery has organized the first full review of a true master with the exhibition Philippe Halsman: A Retrospective, which is open at The Currier Gallery of Art in Manchester, NH, through April 17, 2000.

The 87 portraits in the show include vintage prints drawn from the Halsman Family Collection and the National Portrait Gallery, as well as prints from the Currier's collection. The show spans Halsman's career, which began in the 1930s in Paris with portraits of French writers André Gide and André Malraux.

"Halsman is one of the leading portrait photographers of the mid-twentieth century," said Kurt J. Sundstrom, Assistant Curator at the Currier Gallery of Art. "Virtually every major personality in the arts and entertainment and a long list of important world leaders sat for his camera including Pablo Picasso, Judy Garland, Marlon Brando, Winston Churchill, John Steinbeck, John F. Kennedy, Marian Anderson, John Kenneth Galbraith, Ingrid Bergman, Aldous Huxley, and Alfred Hitchcock," Sundstrom added.

Philippe Halsman was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1906, and moved to Paris in 1932. By 1936, he was known as one of the best portrait photographers in France, with book jackets and magazines, fashion shoots and private commissions to his credit. In the summer of 1940, Halsman's career came to a halt as Hitler's forces invaded Paris. His wife, daughter, sister and brother-in-law, who all held French passports, immigrated to America, but as a Latvian citizen, Halsman was unable to obtain a visa. Finally, after months of waiting, Albert Einstein, an acquaintance of Halsman who was already in America, intervened on his behalf. Halsman arrived in New York in November 1940 with little more than his cameras to start again, this time in his adopted homeland. (left: Philippe Halsman, Albert Einstein, silver gelatin print, 1947, ©Halsman Estate)

Halsman's 30-year association with Life began in October 1942, with an assignment to shoot a story on Lilly Daché's spring hat designs. One of these photographs became his first cover for the magazine. As Life hoped, Halsman's images proved so compelling that people passing newsstands stopped in their tracks. For Halsman, however, his work went far beyond taking pictures of celebrities for popular publications. He said, "This fascination with the human face has never left me... Every face 1 see seems to hide -- and sometimes, fleetingly, to reveal -- the mystery of another human being... Capturing this revelation became the goal and passion of my life." (left: Philippe Halsman, Marilyn Monroe, silver gelatin print, 1952, ©Halsman Estate)

Among the highlights of the exhibition are:

Philipe Halsman: A Retrospective also includes revealing images of such figures as Albert Einstein and John F. Kennedy, as well as celebrated photographs made in the 1950s of Richard Nixon, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Audrey Hepburn, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and others caught in mid-air as they jump before the camera.

"Halsman felt that asking a person to jump shifted their attention from being photographed to the act of jumping, thereby revealing the subject's inner personality," said Sundstrom. "In fact, Halsman compared his ability to reveal character to the work of a good psychologist."

"It can't be done by pushing the person into position or arranging his head at a certain angle," Halsman said. "It must be accomplished by provoking the victim, amusing him with jokes, lulling him with silence, or asking impertinent questions which his best friend would be afraid to voice."

Also on view are startling pictures that grew out of Halsman's association with surrealist movement: images that explore the subconscious and irrational, such as Dali Atomicus (1948), a well-known photograph in which Halsman captured his friend and frequent collaborator Salvador Dali flying through the air, along with a painting, furniture, streams of water and several cats.

In 1958, a poll conducted by Popular Photography named Halsman one of the world's 10 greatest photographers along with Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Ansel Adams, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Philipe Halsman: A Retrospective is sponsored by T.F. Moran, Inc with additional support from State Street Global Advisors. Media sponsor is WFEA AM 1370. The exhibition is accompanied by a book titled Philipe Halsman: A Retrospective, Photographs from the Halsman Family Collection, published by Bullfinch Press/Little Brown and Co., and edited by Jane Halsman Bello and Steve Bello -with an introduction by Mary Panzer.

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rev. 12/27/10

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