Portrait Masters: Arnold Newman

Arnold Newman was born in Manhattan in 1918, going on to study painting and drawing in Florida. He assisted at a photography studio in Philadelphia before opening his own studio business in 1945, first in Miami then back in New York.

Like Richard Avedon, Newman photographed many politicians and celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe, John F Kennedy, Aubrey Hepburn and Ronald Reagan. It was for his work with artists in particular though that he became best known. He developed relationships with many of the artists and understood their work, often incorporating something of the style of the artist into his portraits.

Newman was also one of the first portrait photographers to grasp and develop the concept of the environmental portrait, photographing his subjects in their own surroundings and using elements of those surroundings as key components of his compositions.

The surroundings had to add to the composition and the understanding of the person. No matter who the subject was, it had to be an interesting photograph. Just to simply do a portrait of a famous person doesn’t mean a thing.
Salvador Dali, New York, 1951

Salvador Dali, New York, 1951

I am convinced that any photographic attempt to show the complete man is nonsense. We can only show, as best we can, what the outer man reveals. The inner man is seldom revealed to anyone, sometimes not even the man himself.
Alfred Krupp, Essen, Germany, 1963

Alfred Krupp, Essen, Germany, 1963

We don’t take pictures with cameras – we take them with our hearts and minds.
Pablo Picasso, France, 1954

Pablo Picasso, France, 1954

Photography, as we all know, is not real at all. It is an illusion of reality with which we create our own private world.
Igor Stravinsky, New York, 1946

Igor Stravinsky, New York, 1946

Original contact sheets for the Stravinsky portrait.

Original contact sheets for the Stravinsky portrait.

I am always lining things up, measuring angles, even during this interview. I’m observing the way you sit and the way you fit into the composition of the space around you.
Andy Warhol, 1973

Andy Warhol, 1973

Lessons to learn from Arnold Newman

Know your subject. It was through is familiarity with the artists work that Newman was able to create unique and very personal compositions that played with elements of his own style alongside those of the artists he photographed.

Don't be afraid to crop. Newman's well known portrait of Picasso in particular was heavily cropped from the original image. He seemingly didn't hesitate to search within an image for the exact frame and composition that would be most effective.

Experiment. In the Andy Warhol portraits, Newman was tearing and cutting at prints to piece them back together in creating the finished work. It was inventive and innovative, but again in keeping with the subject rather than doing something different for the sake of it.

You can see most of Arnold Newman's work on a website partly run by his family at www.arnoldnewman.com.