Lucien Clergue [1934-2014] was a pioneering French photographer who devoted his career to elevating photography to a high art, on par with the leading artistic medium of his day, painting. He is best known for his black-and-white portraits of Pablo Picasso, immortalized in his photobook Picasso My Friend (1993). The Spanish painter was an early advocate of Clergue’s artistic practice, and they would maintain a lifelong friendship and collaboration. Clergue’s work encompassed landscapes, portraits, and still lifes, with his studies of the female nude generating particular acclaim.

Clergue was born on August 14, 1934 in Arles, France, where he founded Les Recontres de la Photographie d’Arles, an international festival of photography, in 1969. Clergue achieved widespread critical recognition for his work after it was exhibited in 1961 at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, where Edward Steichen gave the artist his first solo show at the museum. In 2006, he was the first photographer to be elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, where he served as president during 2013. Clergue died on November 15, 2014 in Nîmes, France at the age of 80.

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2012