Albany Museum of Art

Albany, Georgia




Icons of the Twentieth Century: Portraits by Yousuf Karsh


Clark Gable, 1948, © Yousuf Karsh

The exhibition Icons of the Twentieth Century: Portraits by Yousuf Karsh will be on view at the Albany Museum of Art April 8 - June 13, 1999. More than 90 portraits make up this exciting exhibition drawn from Karsh's own collection. The works range from actors and musicians, such as Clark Gable and Dizzy Gillespie to scientists and politicians like Albert Einstein and John F. Kennedy. The portraits span several decades beginning in 1941.

Yousuf Karsh has built a worldwide reputation as a photographer of people of great accomplishment. Throughout his career he has endeavored to record for posterity the faces of those individuals he believes have shaped and epitomize contemporary society, specifically in the scientific, political, and cultural arenas.

Karsh was born in Armenia in 1908, but emigrated to Canada in 1924 to live with his uncle, the photographer George Nakash. It was at this time that he first became interested in the art of photography. After an apprenticeship in Boston, he settled in Ottawa, Canada in 1932, where he began his professional career. He rocketed to international fame in 1941 when he photographed a belligerent Winston Churchill; this photograph became not only Karsh's best-known portrait but the one by which Churchill is best remembered. Until his recent semi-retirement in 1992, Karsh maintained a staff and studio in Ottawa as well as a smaller studio in New York. During his sixty-year career, he produced an impressive volume of work, one that not only stirs admiration and respect but also documents the age and environment within which he operated.

Karsh's portraits are known for their extreme clarity and rich texture. The artist prefers to photograph people in their own environments and tries to learn as much as possible about his sitter before the photo-session. His images, mostly taken with an 8 x 10 inch view camera, are harmoniously balanced between light and dark, form and negative space.

Karsh's knowledge of and sensitivity toward his subjects combined with his consummate technical skills allow us to intimately view some of the outstanding personalities of our era. The power of Karsh's portraits lies in the fact that they are memories of our existence. They reveal something of the nature of our age.

This exhibition has been organized by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama, from the collection of Yousuf Karsh. The exhibition is made possible by generous funding from The Blount Foundation.

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This page was originally published in 1999 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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