Born in New York, Irving Penn - the director Arthur Penn’s elder brother - works in the advertising world when he decides, in 1942 to settle in Mexico to dedicate himself to painting. Returning to New York a year later, he collaborates with Alexander Liberman at Vogue and soon takes on photography to create the ideal covers he dreams of. Most of the American photographer’s work resides in contrast: it is inventive despite its apparent simplicity, beautiful even when it represents the ugly and dignified as it depicts modest individuals. Mostly in black and white, Irving Penn’s images emphasized directness and refused artificial lights and active outdoors, always to be taken in front of a signature grey textile background. At a time when modern fashion photography was eager to represent women running, jumping, laughing out loud, he would prefer the statuesque and static poses in which excelled his wife and muse, Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn. However, in his portraits, he enables sensibility to establish itself and captures Alfred Hitchcock’s gigantism, Truman Capote’s despair or Francis Bacon’s folly. The former painter’s hand is visible in the grain of his photographies, the profound blacks and the picturesque lines. Irving Penn loved to describe his images as ‘beatitudes’ and one can only remark how a certain form of spirituality exudes from his serene sitters.