Issue #79  11/1/2004
Richard Avedon, Fashion and Portrait Giant, Dies

Richard Avedon, who was considered one of the top fashion and portrait photographers of the 20th century, died September 30 of complications of a cerebral hemorrhage in a hospital in San Antonio. He was 81.

Avedon was in Texas on assignment for the New Yorker magazine and had been shooting a portfolio called "Democracy,'' which was an election-oriented project that included coverage of presidential politics.

Avedon was best known for his work as a photographer at Harper's Bazaar (1946-1965) and later at Vogue (1966-1970). But his photographs made their impact felt in the art world. His work was first exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in 1962. After influential shows at the New York Museum of Modern Art and Marlborough Gallery, a larger more inclusive show of his fashion and portrait work was organized by the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. This exhibition was entitled "Richard Avedon: Photographs 1947-1977" and subsequently traveled to museums in Dallas, Atlanta and Tokyo. In 1994 the Whitney Museum of American Art organized another retrospective exhibition. His nudes were also shown last year at the New York Metropolitan Museum.

Avedon also had a lucrative advertising business shooting for clients like Revlon and Christian Dior.

Avedon was born in New York City on May 15, 1923. He came out of a family oriented towards fashion. His father, Jacob Israel, was the proprietor of Avedon's Fifth Avenue, a Manhattan clothing store. His mother, Anna Avedon, came from a family that owned a dress manufacturing business. The young Avedon avidly perused fashion magazines and often decorated the walls of his room with magazine pages of the fashion photographs he admired.

Much has already been written about Avedon's long-term relationship with the influential art director of Harper's Bazaar Alexey Brodovitch. It was under Brodovitch's tutelage that Avedon blossomed, taking some of his most important images, such as "Dovima With Elephants".