Image description

Lucien Clergue (1934 - 2014)

Artists' photographs

Lucien Clergue was born in Arles, France. At the age of 7 he began learning to play the violin, and after several years of study his teacher admitted that he had nothing more to teach him. Clergue was from a family of shopkeepers and could not afford to pursue further studies in a college or university school of music, such as a conservatory. In 1949, he learned the basics of photography. Four years later, at a corrida in Arles, he showed his photographs to Spanish painter Pablo Picassowho, though subdued, asked to see more of his work. Within a year and a half, young Clergue worked on his photography with the goal of sending more images to Picasso. During this period, he worked on a series of photographs of traveling entertainers,acrobats and harlequins, the « Saltimbanques ». He also worked on a series whose subject was carrion.

On November 4, 1955, Lucien Clergue visited Picasso in Cannes, France. Their friendship lasted nearly 30 years until Picasso's death. Clergue's autobiographical book, Picasso My Friend, looks back on important moments of their relationship.

In 1968, and with his friend Michel Tournier, Clergue founded the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival which is held annually in July in Arles. He exhibited his work at the festival during the years 1971–1973, 1975, 1979, 1982–1986, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 2000, 2003 and 2007.

Clergue also illustrated books, among them a book by writer Yves Navarre.

Clergue took many photographs of the gypsies of southern France, and was instrumental in propelling the guitarist Manitas de Plata to fame.

Clergue’s photographs are in the collections of numerous well-known museums and private collectors. His photographs have been exhibited in over 100 solo exhibitions worldwide, with noted exhibitions such as in 1961, at the Museum of Modern Art New York, the last exhibition organized byEdward Steichen with Lucien Clergue, Bill Brandt and Yasuhiro Ishimoto. Museums with large collections of his work include The Fogg Museum at Harvard Universityand the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. His work, Fontaines du Grand Palais (Fountains of the Grand Palais), is in Museo cantonale d'arte of Lugano. His photographs of Jean Cocteau are on permanent display at the Jean Cocteau Museum in Menton, France. In the U.S., an exhibition of the Cocteau photographs was premiered at Westwood Gallery, New York City.

In 2007, the city of Arles honored Lucien Clergue and dedicated a retrospective collection of 360 of his photographs dating from 1953 to 2007. He also received the 2007 Lucie Award [2].

He was named Knight of the Légion d'honneur in 2003 and elected member of the Academy of Fine Arts of the Institute of France on May 31, 2006, at the same time as a new section dedicated to photography was created. Clergue was the first photographer to enter the Academy to a position devoted specifically to photography.

He was Chairman of the Academy of Fine Arts for 2013.

Lucien Clergue was married to the art curator Yolande Clergue, founder of The Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles. He was the father of two daughters: Anne Clergue, a curator of contemporary art who has worked at Leo Castelli Gallery, and Olivia Clergue, a handbag fashion designer whose godfather was Pablo Picasso.