Iconic photographers

Pioneer of the environmental portrait: Arnold Newman: Masterclass at The Harry Ransom Center

Pioneer of the environmental portrait: Arnold Newman: Masterclass at The Harry Ransom Center

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Arnold Newman, Igor Stravinsky, composer and conductor, New York, 1946
Gelatin silver print
© Arnold Newman / Getty Images
Photo by Arnold Newman
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Arnold Newman, Pablo Picasso, painter, sculptor and printmaker, Vallauris, France, 1954
Gelatin silver print
© Arnold Newman / Getty Images
Photo by Arnold Newman
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Arnold Newman, Piet Mondrian, painter, New York, 1942
Gelatin silver print
© Arnold Newman / Getty Images
Photo by Arnold Newman
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Arnold Neman, Marilyn Monroe and Carl Sandburg, detail, 1962
© Arnold Newman / Getty Images
Photo by Arnold Newman
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Arnold Newman: Masterclass Photo by Jessica Pages
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Arnold Newman: Masterclass Photo by Jessica Pages
Austin Photo Set: Pages_arnold newman_hrc_feb 2013
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On Friday night, artists, patrons and art lovers gathered at the Harry Ransom Center to celebrate the opening of their newest exhibit, Arnold Newman: Masterclass.

Newman’s archives, which have a permanent home at the Harry Ransom Center, span seven decades, capturing some of the most beloved celebrities and artists of all time, from Marilyn Monroe and Picasso to his iconic photograph of Igor Stravinsky and his piano.

Newman pioneered a style all his own that came to be known as environmental portraiture (a term he didn’t really care for, he preferred to just call it photographs of people). He shot outside the studio at a time when all of his contemporaries were bringing subjects into theirs. He didn’t want the control the studio had to offer. 

Newman preferred to capture his sitters in their natural habitat, using their art as the background sometimes mimicking it through his composition as with his portrait of painter Piet Mondrian.

With over 200 photographs spanning his entire career, the exhibit delves into his style evolution as a photographer and an artist (he studied painting and drawing), as well as how he thought about photography itself. Notes inside the margins of prints or on his contact sheets show his crops, the photos he hated, and the ones he loved. 

Ephemera like his notebooks, passport and Christmas cards are sprinkled throughout the gallery, giving the viewer a better sense of the man behind the lens.

The is the first major exhibition since Newman’s death in 2006, and it does great justice to his work, showing beautiful prints of both his famous and rarely seen photographs.

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The exhibit will run through May 12, 2013.