Thursday, June 9, 2011


Arnold Newman Self-portrait
Philadelphia, 1938
Photo: Arnold Newman/Getty Images

Arnold Abner Newman

Arnold Abner Newman (3 March 1918, New York, NY — 6 June 2006, New York, NY) was an American photographer, noted for his "environmental portraits" of artists and politicians. He was also known for his carefully composed abstract still life images.

Marc Chagall
Russian/French Painter, 1942

Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe, 1944

Arnold Newman describes his private world as one born of instinct, in which a lifetime of learning, knowledge, and intuition are brought together harmoniously through a single moment of inspiration. This instinct for visual expression is a way of seeing life as an artful interlude between waste and fulfillment, and a means of harnessing the output of human emotions that drive interior engines of poetry, song, and visual pleasure. Newman's own visual instinct was honed and tempered by his friendships with many of the world's leading artists, writers, poets, politicians, and other personages of great accomplishment.
From the 1940s to the present he photographed leaders of world culture and society in what has been called "environmental portraiture"; his subjects are photographed in the physical milieu of their particular profession or personal creations. But it is Newman's selection and imaginative portrayal of his subjects' environments in conjunction with the subjects themselves that sets his work at the pinnacle of the long tradition of portrait photography. From the haunting portraits by Julia Margaret Cameron in the 19th century to Newman's prolific achievement today, the aesthetic aim of portraiture has been to evoke a sense of the inner being of individuals.
Arnold Newman has lived and worked in New York City for most of his career as a freelance photographer for magazines like Fortune, Life, Newsweek, and Esquire, among others. His professional work began, however, in Miami and West Palm Beach in 1938, where he also developed a mature vision for making socially conscious photographs of urban poor. By the mid-1940s, after a short tenure in Philadelphia, he had found his own vision in the strong empathy he had for artists and their world. Both Alfred Stieglitz and Beaumont Newhall encouraged and supported his work in this direction, and by 1945 Newman moved to New York to stay.

Igor Stravinsky
Russian Composer, Pianist and Conductor, 1946

Newman was a master at composition and was meticulous about his work. He even used a large-format camera and tripod to ensure that every detail of a scene was recorded. His signature image, the one most will remember him by, is the beautiful, black and white portrait of Russian Composer Igor Stravinsky seated at a grand piano (above). Look closely and you'll notice that the piano was strategically silhouetted against a blank wall, creating an illusion that the lid is an abstract musical note.
“I read biographies. If they are painters or scientists, I know their work. This is all good. It prepares me to observe. For example, with Stravinsky, I loved his work and when I was asked to photograph him finally he was staying in a hotel, this was in New York, I had no opportunity to get out to the West Coast where he lived. I am not only an environmental but a portrait photographer. So, I am going to the concerts all the time. I love music. Everything from Beethoven to good New Orleans jazz. I would watch the piano or notice the piano. It was strong, harsh, beautiful and it looked like a big flat. It looked very much like his own work. We went on from that point after we researched his apartment to find the right place (including Steinway) to find the right place with the right kind of piano. Other times when I have no opportunity and I have to come take a quick look, I have to use all the resources of all those years of experience, my knowledge, my innate ability to look around, which most people should have that should be in the arts, and have to make quick decisions. I do almost as well that way as when I am researching it. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a better photograph. It just simply means that I am able to think better. Let’s put it that way.” -
(An interview with Arnold Newman by Alexis Anne Clements at

Arthur Miller
American Playwright, 1947

Jackson Pollock
American Painter, 1949

John F. Kennedy
Washington D.C., 1953

Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th U.S. President

Otto Frank
Father of Anne Frank, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1960

Alfred Krupps

Mr. Newman's best-known images were in black and white, although he often photographed in color. Several of his trademark portraits were reproduced in color and in black and white. Perhaps the most famous was a sinister picture of the German industrialist Alfried Krupp, above, taken for Newsweek in 1963. Krupp, long-faced and bushy-browed, is made to look like Mephistopheles incarnate: smirking, his fingers clasped as he confronts the viewer against the background of a assembly line in the Ruhr. In the color version his face has a greenish cast.
The impression it leaves was no accident: Mr. Newman knew that Krupp had used slave labor in his factories during the Nazi reign and that he had been imprisoned after World War II for his central role in Hitler's war machine.
"When he saw the photos, he said he would have me declared persona non grata in Germany," Mr. Newman said of Krupp.
(The New York Times)

Diana Vreeland
New York, NY, 1974

Arnold Newman at home, 1980

Woody Allen
New York, NY, 1996

Newman found his vision in the empathy he felt for artists and their work. Although he photographed many personalities — Marlene Dietrich, John F. Kennedy, Harry S. Truman, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe, Ronald Reagan, Mickey Mantle, and Audrey Hepburn he maintained that even if the subject is not known, or is already forgotten, the photograph itself must still excite and interest the viewer.
“Newman is without question one of the celebrated masters of photographic portraiture of the 20th century,” said David Coleman, Ransom Center curator of photography.
Newman adopted a signature, and influential, approach of portraying his subjects with contextual clues to their life and work.
“His goal was to meld a striking composition with what was true to the sitter,” Coleman said. “His success is apparent because his portraits often come to mind when one recalls many of the icons of 20th century literature, art, science and politics.”
“We do not take pictures with our cameras, but with our hearts and minds," so said Arnold Newman, one of the world's best-known and most admired photographers to have ever lived. Known for his "environmental portraits" of artists and politicians, he captured the essence of his subjects by showing them in their natural surroundings.
As he said, "I didn't just want to make a photograph with some things in the background. The surroundings had to add to the composition and the understanding of the person. No matter who the subject was, it had to be an interesting photograph. Just to simply do a portrait of a famous person doesn't mean a thing."
Newman is often credited with being the first photographer to use so-called environmental portraiture, in which the photographer places the subject in a carefully controlled setting to capture the essence of the individual's life and work. Newman normally captured his subjects in their most familiar surroundings with representative visual elements showing their professions and personalities. A musician for instance might be photographed in their recording studio or on stage, a Senator or other politician in their office or a representative building. Using a large-format camera and tripod, he worked to record every detail of a scene.
Arnold Newman, whose “environmental portraits” of artists and politicians revealed their souls through evocative settings and lighting, died in 2006. He was 88. He died of a heart attack at Mount Sinai Medical Center, according to associates at a gallery that represented him.
(The Associated Press)

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