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Lucien Clergue, poet photographer


After two beautiful exhibitions devoted to Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso, this winter the Cercle Cité invites us to discover the work of Lucien Clergue, who was one of their close friends. The exhibition Lucien Clergue, Poete photographe lets us have a global view of the man who was the first photographer to be elected a member of the Academy of Fine Arts of the Institut of France.

The exhibition focuses on the special relationship between Edward Steichen and Lucien Clergue by way of unpublished documents that demonstrate the importance of their respective places in the history of photography the United States as well as in France.

Through a selection of almost ninety photographs, this exhibition shows his favourite themes: the Camargue, Sand, Nudes, Cocteau, Circus Performers and Gypsies. The majority of the photographs on show are classics that were printed by the artists in his darkroom in Arles on a paper that doesn’t exist today, the famous Ilford Lumière paper.

Born in Arles in 1934, Lucien Clergue had his studies interrupted at the age of sixteen to work in a factory. He studied the violin, then launched himself headlong into photography.

In 1964, at the invitation of Edward Steichen, an exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art established his talent. In 1984 the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris devoted a retrospective exhibition to him that covered thirty years of his work.

His work delves into the secrets of life and death through his shots of circus performers, carcasses, then the bullfight, the female nude, the Camargue landscape, portraits of the famous (Picasso, Jean Cocteau, St John Perse…) they impose themselves on him as the leitmotivs of a world that is both special and universal. As shown by his research on the Gypsies, his work is simultaneously a bearer of a universality linked to a timeless exploration of nature, the female body, the places and the gestures with which the lives of mankind are recorded in a time-honoured way.

His works are held in several museums and institutions, both within and outside France. In Arles in 1969, Lucien Clergue, with Michel Tournier and Jean-Maurice Rouquette, founded the “Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie, which in turn led to the establishment of the National School of Photography in the same city, where he taught part-time. He also initiated the Musée Reattu’s photography collection in Arles in 1962,that is now holding 4,500 works.

This exhibition is made possible thanks to the goodwill of his heirs, Yolande Clergue, his wife, and his two daughters Olivia and Anne, for making available a number of Lucien Clergue’s works, in order to support the artist’s memory in France and abroad. To mark the occasion the Cercle Cité has published a catalogue with a wealth of images of the works in the exhibition, which also documents the link between Arles and Luxembourg.



Lucien Clergue, Poète photographe
From 24th November 2017 to 14th January 2018
Cercle Cité
2 Rue Genistre
1623 Luxembourg

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