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 Lucien Clergue  (1934 - )

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Lived/Active: France      Known for: photography, writing, teaching, and film making

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Biography from Louis Stern Fine Arts:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Born in Arles on 14 August 1934, Lucien Clergue was the only child of a grocer.  From the age of seven takes violin lessons. 1944 His parents’ house is destroyed by bombing. 1949 Takes a serious interest in photography.  1952 Death of his mother.  Works in a food-processing factory in Arles.  Meets the writer Jean-Marie Magnan, who is to remain a close friend.

1953 First meeting with Picasso, in Arles. For the first time has a photograph published in the local newspaper Le Provençal.  Makes first journey to Andalusia in the south of Spain.  1954 Production of his first photographic series: shots of Jean Renoir’s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (performed in the Arena at Arles to mark the 2000th anniversary of the city’s foundation), and Ruines, an exploration of the surviving war damage in Arles.  Also starts work on the series Saltimbanques.  1955 Visits Picasso in the latter’s studio in Cannes.  Continues work on the Saltimbanques and embarks on a series of images of dead birds and animals.

Meets the guitarist Manitas de Plata in Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. 1956 First meeting with Jean Cocteau, in Paris.  Starts work on the series Nus, posing his models on the beaches of the Camargue.  1957 Publication of his first book of photographs: Corps mémorable (Pierre Seghers, Paris), with poems by Paul Eluard; the cover design is by Picasso, and Jean Cocteau provides an introductory poem.  Through Cocteau, Clergue meets Max Ernst, who buys a series of Clergue’s images of dead flamingos, thereby becoming the first collector of Clergue’s work.  1958 Clergue’s first exhibition opens at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, in Zurich, Switzerland.  Georg Schmidt, Director of the Kunstmuseum, Basel, published Clergue’s work in the journal Quadrum and is to remain a staunch supporter.  Fritz Gruber, founder of the “Photokina” exhibitions, mounts a show of Clergue’s work at the Kölnischer Werkschulen, with its poster designed by Picasso. Clergue also has a one-man show at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nancy, France, with a poster designed by Jean Cocteau.  1959 Takes stills during the shooting of Jean Cocteau’s film Le Testament d’Orphée.

On 31st December leaves his job at the factory and becomes a freelance photographer. Has one-man shows at the Galerie Montaigne, Paris, and in Frankfurt am Main.  1960 At the invitation of Jean-Louis Barrault, exhibits in the foyer of the Théâtre de l’Odéon, Paris.  The American photographer Edward Steichen acquires nine works by Clergue for the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Clergue meets Dr. Willy Staehelin in Zurich, who becomes a collector of Clergue’s work.  A book of Clergue’s photographs is published in Germany (DuMont Scauberg, Cologne), with the title Poesie der Photographie.  Picasso designs its cover; and poems and text are supplied by Cocteau and Magnan.  Clergue has a one-man show at the Stadthalle, Göppingen.

1961 Takes part in the last exhibition organized by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art, New York, “Diogenes with a Camera No. 5,” which also includes the work of Bill Brandt and of Yashuhiro Ishimoto.  Clergue’s film stills are included in the book version of Le Testament d’Orphée (Editions du Rocher, Monaco), which also has Cocteau’s set designs and excerpts of dialogue from the film.  1962 Stays in Brasilia, Brazil, as a guest of the architect Oscar Niemeyer.  Has one-man shows at the Museum Folkwang, Essen, the Pavillion de Marsan of the Musée du Louvre, Paris, and the Musée Réattu, Arles.

1963 Marries Yolande Martel. Birth of their daughter Anne.  Publication of the volumes Geburt der Aphrodite/Naissance d’Aphrodite, with excerpts from the poetry of Ferderico Garcia Lorca, and Toros muertos, with poems and texts of Cocteau and Magnan (both published by Editions Editec, Paris).  Prepares a set design (based on photomontages) for the ballet Les fils de l’air being prepared by Cocteau to mark the re-opening of the Munich Opera; on account of Cocteau’s death, this project comes to nothing.

Trip to India. The Paris fashion designer Givenchy produces a collection of scarves with motifs taken from Clergue’s photographs.  Clergue has a one-man show at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Zurich.  1964 One-man show at the Fotomuseum within the Stadtmuseum, Munich.  Publication of the monograph Lucien Clergue, photographe, (Arche Verlag, Zurich), with texts by Clergue himself and by Cocteau, Magnan, Manuel Gasser and Luc Norin.  1965 Meets the poet Saint-John Perse.  Takes photographs in the marshes of the Camargue.  Makes his first film, Le drame du taureau.  Initiates a photographic department at the Musée Réattu, Arles.  Publication of the volume La Camargue (Verviers et Esthetiques Nouvelles, Paris), with texts by M. R. Delorme.

1966 Birth of Clergue’s second daughter, Olivia.  Picasso becomes her godfather. Clergue wins the “Louis Lumiere” prize for his film Le drame du Taureau.  Michel Tournier makes two films about Clergue’s work for French television.  1968 Clergue makes the film Picasso, Guerre, Amour et Paix for the series Museum without Walls, produced by Universal Pictures.  He is nominated for an Oscar for his film of 1967, Delta de Sel, which is shown at the Cannes Film Festival.  Publication of the volume Provence du Delta (Editions La Savoisienne, Marseille), with texts by Laëtitia.

1969 Makes a 35 mm color film of Picasso at work in the artist’s stuio in Mougins. Serves as Art Director at the Arles Festival.  Is co-founder, with Jean Maurice Rouquette and Michel Tournier, of the “Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie” in Arles.  One-man show at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm.  1970 Makes first photographs of what will become the series Nudes in the Wood.  One-man show at the Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Kunsthalle, Bern.

1971 Goes on a world tour of fifty-five days.  Meets Ansel Adams in Carmel, where he takes photographs at the park of Point Lobos.  Neil, one of the sons of Edward Weston, shows Clergue around his father’s studio.  1972 Designs a set for the ballet Orlando Furioso at the Fenice in Venice.  One-man show at the École des Beaux-Arts et d’Architecture. Marseille-Luminy.  1973 Death of Picasso.  Publication of the volume Genèse (Pierre Belfond, Paris), with fifty photographs accompanying excerpts from the “Amers” cycle of poems by Saint-John Perse.  Clergue has a one-man show at the FNACC Wagram, Paris.  1974 Meets Ansel Adams at the “Recontres Internationales de la Photographie” in Arles. Clergue is elected a member of the Académie in Arles. Teaches at the Université de Provence, Marseille.  Trips to Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) and to Prague, where he meets the photographers Josef Sudek and Jan Saudek.  One-man shows at the Musée de Beaux-Arts (Musee d’Ixelles), Brussels, the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and the Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Düren.  1975 Takes the first photographs of the series Nudes in the City (Paris and New York).  Also starts photographing in color.  The Centre National d’Art Contemporain acquires sixty photographs (Langage des Sables) for the collection of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

1976 Publication of the volume Camargue Secrète (Editions Pierre Belfond, Paris), with texts by Lucien Clergue and Mario Prassinos.  Ansel Adams makes a second visit to Arles.  1977 Trips to the USA and to Canada in order to extend the series Nudes in the City.  Death of Clergue’s father.  One-man show at the Institut Français, West Berlin. 1978 Trips to Japan and to Mexico.  Is invited to lecture in West Germany.  One-man show at the Institut Français, Cologne, and at the Photographic Center, Melbourne. 1979 Is awarded a doctorate in photography at the Université de Provence, Marseille, at the recommendation of Roland Barthes. 

1980 Is appointed a “Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite” by the French President, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. One-man show at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Publication of the volume Langage de sables (Editions Agep, Marseille), with a preface by Roland Barthes.  1981 Takes his first photographs at Death Valley.  Makes his first experiments with a Polaroid camera.  Is appointed Guest Professor at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, as part of the events marking the centenary of the birth of Picasso.  One-man shows at Jean-Louis Barrault’s Théâtre du Rond-Point, Paris, and at the Alliance Française, Toronto.  1982 Opening of the École Nationale de la Photographie (ENP) in Arles, where Clergue continues to teach.  Publication of the colume Visions sur le nu (Viking Press, New York), with text by Clergue.  1983 Receives a commission from the Museum Unterlinden, Colmar, to make a series of photographic variations on Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece.  One-man show in Göppingen. 

1984 Takes photographs with a Polaroid SX70 camera to create collages in black-and-white and in color.  Death of Ansel Adams.  Clergue has a one-man show at the FNAC Montmarte, Paris.  1985 First retrospective exhibition in the USA, organized by George Eastman House, Rochester, NY.  Produces his first large-scale Polaroid photographs (50 x 60 centimeters) in Boston.  Establishes his first studio in Madrid, Spain.  One-man show at the Institut Français, Aachen.  Publication of the Volume Lucien Clergue, Eros and Thanatos (New York Graphic Society, Boston) with an introduction by Michel Tournier and a preface by Marianne Fulton.

1986 At the Foto Fietsa in Higeshikawa, Japan, Clergue is elected “Photographer of the Year.”  A Clergue retrospective exhibition takes place in the Fotografie Forum International, Frankfurt am Main.  Clergue is invited to take part in the “Photokina” in Cologne.  1987 Trips to Madagascar and to the Caribbean.  Collaborates with the artist Karel Appel in the latter’s designs for a ballet to be performed in Paris.  First Clergue retrospective at the Amos Anderson Art Museum, Helsinki.  First exhibition of his color photographs, at the Musée de l’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.  1988 Holds teaching positions at the universities of Boca Raton, Florida, and Toledo, Ohio.  One-man show at the International Photogallery in Tokyo.  1989 Takes part in an exhibition to mark the centenary of the birth of Saint-John Perse in Martinique, and in the celebrations to mark that of Jean Cocteau in Montpelier, Orléans, Paris and Baden-Baden.  Publication of the volume Correspondence Jean Cocteau-Lucien Clergue (Actes Sud, Arles). 

1990 Trip to Lithuania, where he meets photographers from Vilnius and Kaunas.  Trip to Egypt, where he exhibits in Alexandria.  In Florida takes the first photographs of the series Surimpressions.  Trip to Japan, where he is Guest Professor at the University of Osaka, the first non-Japanese to be appointed. Trip to Taiwan.  1991 Extensive travels in North and South America in connection with exhibitions and lectures in New York and in São Paolo.  One-man show at the Salon de la Real Maestranza, Seville.  1992 Publication of the volume Nimeño II, Torero de France (Editions Marval, Paris). Clergue’s hommage to Christian Nimeño II, a bullfighter who had committed suicide in the spring of the previous year after being seriously wounded during a bullfight in Arles.

Trips to Taiwan and to Spain, giving lectures in both.  Exhibits his Surimpressions in Zaragosa. 1993 Trips to, and exhibitions in, Barcelona, Madrid, Naples, New York, and Chicago.  Takes portrait photographs of Jackie Onassis in the Camargue and of Umberto Eco in Arles.  One-man show at the FNAC, Paris.  Publication of Clergue’s volume Picasso mon ami (Editions Plume, Paris).  1994 Presents ten photographs to the Museum of Modern Art, New York.  The Maison Européenne de la Photographie. Paris acquires six images of the series Surimpressions tauromachiques.  Trips to Amsterdam, Vienna, Los Angeles, and Miami, Florida.  1995 Trips to New York and to the Everglades and Boca Raton, Florida. 

Exhibitions in Marseille, Cordoba and Miami.  Harvard University acquires an important donation from private collectors of Clergue’s work.  Takes photographs of a production of Racine’s Phèdre at the Comédie Française, Paris.  These are published in the volume Phèdre (Editions de la Comédie Française, Paris). 

1996 Trip to Xilitla, Mexico.  His Photographs of the bullfighter Cristina Sanchez are published in numerous magazines and newspapers: Paris Match, Stern, Sunday Mirror, Life, Vogue and American Photo. Clergue takes part in the retrospective devoted to the nude on the occasion of a Maillol exhibition at the L’isle sur la Sorgue.  A show of Clergue’s photographs of the bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin is mounted in Murcia, Spain.  Death of the collector Willy Staehelin.

1997 Travels in the USA, where he holds workshops, and to Mexico and Italy.  The Stiftung für Fotografie at the Kunsthaus, Zurich, acquires photographs of 1958 and 1990 by Clergue from two private collectors.  One-man show at the Centro de la Imagen, Mexico.  The color photographs from Clergue’s Surimpressions are published in the volume Passion-Passions, (Actes Sud, Arles), with an introduction by Fernando Arrabal. 1998 Takes part in exhibitions and conferences in Los Angeles and in New York celebrating the achievement of Picasso.  One-man shows in Paris, Zadar (Croatia), Denver (Colorado), Arles, New York, and at the Galerie in Focus, Cologne.  Several Swiss museum acquire works by Clergue from the photographic collection amassed by the late Willy Staehelin and his wife over the course of thirty-five years.  1999 Exhibition of Clergue’s black-and-white photographs at the Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Dortmund, to mark the publication of the volume Grands Nus (Umschau Braus, Heidelberg/Marval, Paris).

2000 Three exhibitions in Paris present Clergue’s work of the 1950s, his sixty publications over forty-three years and his color SurimpressionsLe Taureau appears in a limited edition of thirty, with poems by René Char.  2001 After an interval of twenty-five years, Clergue makes a second visit to Prague.  Also travels to the Caribbean. 

As a result o the terrorist attacks of 11 September in America, he loses five friends: Isaac Stern, Roger Thérond, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Roger Pic and Jean-Pierre Chabrol.

Publication of La Nuit de la terre (Editions du Patrimonie, Paris 2002).  2002 Exhibition of the Surimpressions at the John Stevenson Gallery, New York.  Exhibition of photographic portraits of Picasso in Picasso’s former Paris studio at 7 Rue des Grands Augustins.  The Musée des Beaux-Arts, Vitoria acquires a collection of Clergue’s work.  One-man show at the Galerie in Focus, Cologne, and at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nîmes.  2003 Clergue is appointed a Chevalier de la “Légion d’honneur.”

Biography from
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

A native of Arles, France, Lucien Clergue is a fine-art photographer, author, educator and filmmaker.  His work has been associated with some of France's most significant artists, intellectuals, and musicians including Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Roland Barthes, and the Gypsy Kings.  Clergue's work has been published in numerous books and exhibitions.

Lucien Clergue first discovered the power of the camera in his difficult adolescence.  He witnessed the destruction of his family's house by WWII bombs, and suffered the prolonged illness and death of his mother.  He has spent much of his career taking photos that express loss, death and decay.  He is known for his female nude torsos from the mid '50s - '70s and bullfight images from the Arles arena, where he met Pablo Picasso, a strong supporter of his early work. His later work turned to organic abstractions of sand, lace, etc.  His work has been influenced by mythology, adventure and what he calls "the mentality of the Mediterranean man."  In 1969 he established the Recontres Internationales de la Photographie at Arles.  This event has continued to grow and is considered on of the most important art festivals in the world.  His wife established the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation, a museum of contemporary art in homage to Van Gogh, in Arles.

Clergue is the founder of the Recontres Internationales de la Photographie, Europe's major photography conference and showcase, in his native Arles, France.  While Clergue's work has been exhibited worldwide and included in the collections of many major museums, UCR/California Museum of Photography's exhibition Signs of Gods and Goddesses will be his premiere West Coast retrospective exhibition.

Over the decades Clergue has enjoyed world-wide success with exhibitions across Europe and North America. Clergue received his doctorate at the University of Provence, Marseilles under the direction of Roland Barthes in 1979. He has taught at such institutions as the New School of Social Research; conducted countless workshops on photographic technique, particularly dealing with the nude; published a number of art volumes and been the subject of many museum catalogs.

His books include:

* Picasso Mon Ami
* La Provence
* Les Gitans
* Lucien Clergue: Eros and Thanatos (George Eastman House)
* Langage des Sables
* The Nude Workshop
* Footprints of the Gods

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