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MEP : Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn – Fashion Icon


The MEP presents Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn – Icône de mode, the personal collection of the woman who was the greatest model of her time. With nearly 150 prints made from the years 1935 to 1955 by masters of photography such as Horst P. Horst, Irving Penn, Louise Dahl-Wolfe and Erwin Blumenfeld, the exhibition offers an overview of the golden age of fashion photography, magnified by an exceptional personality. Tom Penn, son of Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn and Irving Penn, proposed this exhibition project to the MEP. He generously donated part of this remarkable ensemble to the MEP collection.

Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn (1911-1992), dancer, model, photographer, stylist and sculptor, is considered the first “top model” in history. For 20 years, she was frequently published in Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. She did around 200 covers for the biggest fashion magazines of the period. At the height of her career in 1949, she appeared on the cover of Time magazine at the age of 38.

A highly sought-after model, she collaborated with the greatest fashion photographers: Fernand Fonssagrives, her first husband, Horst P. Horst, whose favorite model she was, George Hoyningen-Huene, George Platt Lynes, Erwin Blumenfeld, who immortalized her hanging from the Eiffel Tower, dressed in a dress by Lucien Lelong, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, whose resolutely modern style suited Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn perfectly, Irving Penn, whom she married in 1950, and who made her her partner for her greatest photographs, Richard Avedon, her friend Frances McLaughlin-Gill, first female photographer under contract with Vogue, and many others: Kathryn Abbe, James Abbe Jr., Gene Fenn, Otto Fenn, Toni Frissell, Harold Halma, Genevieve Naylor, John Rawlings and Lillian Bassman.

More than a model, Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn fully participated in the development of the photographs for which she posed. Most were taken in the studio, which required hours of preparation and a real bond between the photographer and his model.


Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn – Icône de mode
February 28 – May 26, 2024
Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP)
5/7 Rue de Fourcy
75004 Paris, France

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