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Rare Photographs of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Other Great 20th-Century Artists on View at the Getty

Photographs of Artists by Alexander Liberman
Getty Research Institute Exhibition Gallery
July 22-October 19, 2003

May 1, 2003

Los Angeles--Alexander Liberman (1912–1999) photographed some of the leading American and European artists of the modern era, opening an extraordinary window into the lives of these great talents. Now, 71 of Liberman's works—including rare photographs of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, and other 20th-century icons—will go on display in Photographs of Artists by Alexander Liberman, organized by the Getty Research Institute and on view at the Getty from July 22 through October 19, 2003. Drawn from the Alexander Liberman collection of more than 100,000 photographs and negatives, a recent bequest to the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute, this exhibition concludes the Research Institute’s 2002–2003 theme of "Biography."

Liberman created these portraits over the course of his 50-year career as art director at Vogue and editorial director of Condé Nast Publications. With the sharp instincts of a journalist and the keen eye of an artist, Liberman produced an extensive body of documentary-style images that have also become valuable historical documents. Some of his photographs show images of important works-in-progress. The exhibition, curated by Glenn Phillips, includes Liberman's black-and-white and color images of Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Helen Frankenthaler, Alberto Giacometti, Jasper Johns, Fernand Léger, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Betty Parsons, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, and David Smith, among others. The artists are portrayed both at leisure and at work in their studios, or in studied, close-up portraits. Many of these photos have never before been exhibited or published.

Thomas Crow, director of the Getty Research Institute, commented: "The Alexander Liberman photographs will convey to the visitor a wealth of information about the setting and atmosphere in which some of the greatest art of the past century was produced."

Liberman, who was also a painter, sculptor, and graphic designer, was born in Russia and lived in London and Paris before arriving in the United States as an exile in 1941. He is probably best known for the enormous influence he exerted in the fields of art and fashion publishing. He introduced 20th-century art to the pages of popular magazines of the Condé Nast publishing group, using modern and contemporary art as backdrops for fashion shoots, and running profiles on living artists in Vogue. Many of these profiles were photographed and written by Liberman himself. Beginning in 1949 with a visit to Georges Braque, Liberman passed more than a decade of summers in Europe photographing and interviewing the aging artists of the School of Paris in their studios. He also preserved in his photographs images of studios of artists who were deceased. These photographs and essays, covering 39 artists and studios, were collected and published in Liberman's 1960 book The Artist in His Studio. 

Liberman also documented the younger artists of the New York School, intending to collect these photographs into another book. Though he never completed the second book, his preliminary layouts, a selection of which is included in this exhibition, were preserved and are now part of the Research Library's Liberman collection of photographs. 

Through his decades-long process of photographing great artists and their studios, Liberman created vital documentation of a pivotal era in art. The Getty exhibition, just a sampling of the vast body of Liberman's work now archived in the Getty Research Institute, offers a glimpse of the faces and the lives of some of the past century's most famous artists, capturing their varied personalities and historical images of their works-in-progress.


Francine du Plessix Gray will read from the memoirs she is writing about her stepfather Alexander Liberman, and talk about the problems inherent in writing biographical texts about family members. Tuesday, September 16, 4 p.m., Museum Lecture Hall. FREE. Call for reservations.

Note to Editors: Images available on request.
For more information, the public can call 310-440-7300 or visit

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The Getty Research Institute serves education in the broadest sense by increasing knowledge and understanding about art and art history through advanced research. The Research Institute provides intellectual leadership through its research, exhibition, and publications programs and provides service to a wide range of scholars worldwide through residencies, fellowships, online resources, and its Research Library. The Research Library is one of the largest art and architecture libraries in the world, containing 800,000 volumes, including general collections of books, periodicals, and auction catalogues encompassing the history of Western art and related fields in the humanities. The Research Library's special collections include rare books, artists' journals, sketchbooks, architectural drawings and models, photographs, and archival materials.

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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