The Harry Ransom Center has just made available online a selection of 100 photographs and associated contact sheets by American photographer Arnold Newman (1918–2006).
This digitized selection is from Newman’s acclaimed artist series and includes portraits of painters, sculptors, photographers, writers, composers, and other well-known cultural figures of his time. It also includes a small group of Newman’s early explorations of photography’s experimental and documentary modes.
Newman was a versatile photographer, taking on major advertising clients in addition to steady editorial assignments at leading picture magazines, including Life, Look, Holiday, and Harper’s Bazaar. But he remains best known for his portrait work.
Starting in 1941, Newman developed his distinctive style of portraiture by photographing artists. Many of modern art’s most influential figures lived in — or frequently passed through — New York, and Newman arranged to photograph them in their studios surrounded by the objects of their everyday lives. Hence, Newman came to be recognized as the 20th-century master of “environmental portraiture,” a genre with historical roots in painting.
The photographs now online were selected by the Ransom Center in consultation with Newman shortly before his death in 2006, as part of the larger acquisition of his archive that same year. They represent just a small sampling of the center’s Arnold Newman Papers and Photography Collection.