Published: March 2, 2010
The Speed Art Museum will present “The Most Famous People in the World: Karsh 100,” on view from March 12 to June 27. Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, this exhibition presents iconic portraits of many of the Twentieth Century’s most famous people taken by photographer Yousuf Karsh (1908′002).
Karsh, the man behind the lens of some of the Twentieth Century’s most famous photographic portraits, is known internationally for his ability to capture the true humanity of an individual in his work. The exhibition was organized to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Karsh’s birth. Included in it are many of the best-known portraits of the era’s most illustrious faces displayed alongside rarely seen earlier photographs that reveal how Karsh learned his craft. Represented are luminaries in the fields of art, music, science, theater, politics and film, including Ernest Hemingway, Audrey Hepburn, Pablo Picasso, Mother Teresa, Jacqueline Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth II, Andy Warhol and many others.
This exhibition represents a visual biography of the photographer, who died in 2002.
Featured will be the iconic portrait of Winston Churchill that propelled Karsh to international notoriety as a photographer. This portrait, taken during the British prime minister’s visit to Canada in 1941, launched Karsh’s 60-year career. The outcome of that brief encounter is the bold and defiant portrait of a belligerent Churchill, which put a human face on the indomitable spirit of the British people during World War II.
Marked by his own life’s history as much as the history he documented of others, the story of Karsh is the epitome of what is thought to be the American dream. Karsh was born in Armenia in 1908 where he lived as a refugee in a world of civil unrest. At the age of 17 he embarked on a 28-day journey to live with an uncle in Canada with no money and little schooling. It was in Canada where Karsh first learned the photographic skills that would begin his career as one of the most revered photographers of all time. He later settled in the United States.
Karsh’s name became synonymous with the highest level of photographic portraiture. It came to be that sitters longed to be “Karshed.” His ability to see the inward spirit of the individual in his portraits was a remarkable talent that placed Karsh apart from other portrait photographers. Karsh explained his intentions with great eloquence when he said that, “My desire was to photograph the great in spirit, whether they be famous or humble.”
The Speed Art Museum is at 2035 South Third Street. For information, 502-634-2700 or www.speedmuseum.org .
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