Lucien Clergue 1934-2014

 
Lucien Clergue was a French photographer perhaps best known for his photographs of supple female nudes amid the waves at Camargue, a series which he began in the 1950s and continued until his death.

Born in Arles in the South of France in 1934 Clergue was given his first camera at the age of 13. After his mother's death in 1952 Clergue was forced to abandon his studies to work as a business clerk for a large food distribution company. Indefatigable and remarkably motivated, he would take photographs in his lunch breaks and develop them at night. His first photographs were of dead things, mainly animals drowned in the river Rhone, and of wartime ruins. In 1953 he waited for Pablo Picasso outside the arena in Arles after a bullfight and thrust a series of prints into his hands. Picasso looked and replied, 'These are very good; I would like to see more!' Inspired by the encounter Clergue embarked on a series he referred to as Les Saltimbanques, featuring a group of circus children photographed against dilapidated buildings. Clergue's friendship with Picasso proved revelatory and meant that he was also introduced to Jean Cocteau. Both were instrumental in the publication of Clergue's first book, Corps Memorable (1957); the cover was drawn by Picasso while the preface was written by Cocteau. In 1959 Cocteau gave Clergue permission to photograph the filming of Testament of Orpheus which was released the following year.

Struggling for recognition, especially in his own country, Clergue's major breakthrough came in the US, when Edward Steichen invited him to undertake a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1961. A year later his work was shown at the Louvre in Paris.

He directed more than 20 short films and documentaries, and in 1968 was selected at the Cannes film festival for his documentary Delta of Salt (1967). In 1969 he launched the photography festival for which Arles is still famous, and in 1982 founded the first national school of photography in his native town. He became the agent for the Gypsy guitar player Manitas de Plata, whom he took to New York to play at Carnegie Hall in 1966 and introduced to Charlie Chaplin, Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau and Picasso. In 2006, he was the first photographer to be elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 2008, he was made a commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

1934
Born in Arles, France

1959
Guest photographer on Jean Cocteau's film Le Testament d'Orphée

1966
Recieves the Louis Lumière prize for his film Le drame du taureau

1969
Founded the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie in Arles with Jean-Maurice Rouquette and Michel Tournier

1974
Clergue is elected a member of the Académie in Arles

1979
Recieves National Order of Merit from President Giscard d'Estaing, France
Recieves a doctorate in photography at the Université de Provence, Marseille, France

1986
Clergue is awarded Photographer of the Year by the Foto Fietsa in Higeshikawa, Japan

2003
Presented with the decoration Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by French president Jacques Chirac

2005
Awarded the Lucie Award for the Outstanding Life Achievement in Fine Arts in Photography

Selected Exhibitions:

2009
Lucien Clergue : The Intimate Picasso, Louis Stern Fine Arts, Los Angeles, CA (solo)

2007
Lucien Clergue, Pierre Menard Gallery, Cambridge, MA (solo)

2006
Lucien Clergue: Fifty Years of Photography - Vintage and Recent Works, Louis Stern Fine Arts, Los Angeles, CA (solo)

2004
Recontres Internationales de la Photographie, Abbaye de Montmajour, Arles, France (solo)

2003
Retrospectif: Lucien Clergue, FLATFILEgalleries, Chicago, IL (solo)

2002
Musée des Beaux-Arts, NFrance (solo)

1999
Retrospective exhibition, Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Dortmund, Germany (solo)

1998
4 Decades of Photography, SoHo Triad Fine Arts, New York, NY

1997
Signs of Gods and Goddesses: Four Decades of Lucien Clergue's Photography, UCR California Museum of Photography, Riverside, CA (solo)

1993
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI

1991
Picasso-Clergue on Bullfights, Jan Krugier Gallery, New York, NY

1986
Retrospective ICP, Middle Town Building, New York, NY (solo)

1985
International Center of Photography, New York, NY (solo)
Retrospective, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY (solo)

1973
ICA, London, England (solo)

1962
Pavillion de Marsan, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France (solo)

1961
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

Selected Publications:

2005
Lucien Clergue: histoire, Edizioni del Museo, Brescia, Italy
Portraits, Actes Sud, Arles, France

2003
Poésie Photographique, preface by Manfred Heiting, edited by E-M. Turck, Prestel Verlag, Munich, Germany

1996
Phèdre. La suprême déclaration d'amour, texts by A. Delbée, J & D, Biarritz, France

1985
Lucien Clergue, Eros and Thanatos, texts by M. Tournier and M. Fulton, New York Graphic Society, Boston, MA

1964
Lucien Clergue, Photographe, Die Arche Verlag, Zurich, Switzerland

1960
Poesie der Fotographie, introduction by J. Cocteau, DuMont Shauberg, Cologne, Germany

1957
Corps mémorable, poems by P. Eluard, Seghers, Paris, France

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