The art world has always had a symbiotic relationship. Think fashion designers creating costumes for the ballet and painters producing sets for the opera – David Hockney’s sets for Glyndebourne being just one example. Now, a new book called Magnum Artists: When Great Photographers meet Great Artists aims to give an insight into the personal worlds of some of the most acclaimed modern artists, shot by the biggest names in photography.
Many of these images are shot in the artist’s previously unseen private spaces, showing us both their homes and their studios where their masterpieces were created. The result is not only a look at the unique relationship between the disciplines, but also an insight into the creative process behind many of the great works of art we love.
This astonishing collection is produced by Magnum Photos, the international photography collective which has been documenting the world’s major events and personalities since the 1930s. As such, the names of both photographers and their subjects in Magnum Artists are all important players in creating the powerful social narrative that has defined our social and cultural history.
You’ll find names such as Matisse and Picasso shot by Robert Capa, Warhol, Lichtenstein and De Kooning shot by Thomas Hoepker, Marina Abramovic by Alex Majoli, Bonnard by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Frida Khalo by Werner Bischof and Kiki Smith by Susan Meiselas, as well as many more recognisable figures from these creative fields.
Alongside the portraits are accompanying texts written by author Simon Bainbridge, designed to tell the story behind each of these images. Bainbridge is a renowned arts editor and curator, having served as principal editor of the British Journal of Photography since 2003. His insights not only help to explain the shifts and trends in art creation that these images reflect, but also their context and cultural significance.
Yet more often than not, it’s the image itself which tells the true story of the artist. Marcel Duchamp is captured by Philippe Halsman playing chess against US grandmaster Larry Evans – Duchamp was nearly French chess champion himself in the mid 20s. Tracey Emin is shot by Martin Parr in her East London studio with the model for her Knowing My Enemy sculpture – a location which also serves as her home.
Through these images, we are given a fascinating insight into the lives of the most important people to shape visual culture over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries. As such think of Magnum Artists: When Great Photographers meet Great Artists as this: a beautiful photography book to both enjoy and consult in equal measure.
Magnum Artists: Great Photographers Meet Great Artists by Simon Bainbridge (£40, Lawrence King) is out now; rizzolibookstore.com