Lucien Clergue Bio
LUCIEN CLERGUE was born in 1934 in Arles, Southern France. The only son of shop owners, Clergue’s early life was interupted by the experience of poverty and destruction brought on by the war years. In 1952, at the age of 18, he was faced with the untimely death of his mother. Clergue channeled his energies into shooting photographs with a box camera his mother had gifted him a few years before her passing.
Clergue taught himself photography in his free time while working in Southern France. He quickly built a reputation for himself, and over the years formed lasting and influential relationships with many renowned artists, collectors, and benefactors, including Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, St. John Perse, Roland Barthes, Michel Tournier, James Jones, Ansel Adams, Andre Kertesz, Irwing Shaw, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Eikoh Hosoe, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau.
The myriad of subject matter featured in Clergue’s work includes a series depicting the war ruins of Arles, Spanish bullfighters, the French countryside, and of course, the female nude. The brilliance and integrity of his vision has led many private collectors and institutions to seek out and exhibit his work. In 1961, Edward Steichen invited him to undertake a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art. The next year he exhibited again, this time at the pavillon de Marsan, Palais du Louvre, Paris.
Clergue has since been decorated with the honor of the National Order of Merit by President Giscard d'Estaing in 1979, and in 2003 received the highest honor bestowed by the the French Ministry of Culture as a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur. In 2006 he became the first photographer to be a member of the Academy of Fine Arts of the Institute of France. In 1969 he founded and organized The Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie of Arles, which celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2004 with an exhibition homage for Clergue’s 70th birthday.
Clergue has published and ilustrated 70 books in which his black and white photographs complement the verse of well-known poets. He works unceasingly in teaching photography, publishing, and exhibiting. His 2003 book “Poésie photographique” was awarded among the 10 best books of the year worldwide.
Clergue’s photography is held in many public collections, including most notably with the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University, University of Maryland, Milwaukee Museum of Art, the Museum of Moden Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Bühl Foundation of New York.
Apart from stills, he was awarded Prix Louis Lumiere in 1966 for his first short film - a form of art in which he remains active. Clergue has published and ilustrated 70 books in which his black and white photographs complement the verse of well-known poets. He works unceasingly in teaching photography, for publishing, and exhibitions. Whilst his reputation has been made in black and white photography, his striking colour works are published and exhibited as well. His recent book ìPoÈsie photographiqueî (Prestel publ. Munich2003) has been awarded among the 10 best books of the year worldwide.
In 1969 he has initiated The Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie of Arles, which celebrate their 35th anniversary in 2004 with an exhibition homage for his 70th birthday as guest of honor.
The most important public collection of his work in the U.S are located at FOGG Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge Massachusetts; The University of Maryland, Catonsville Baltimore County ; The Milwaukee Museum of Art Milwaukee as well as the MOMA (New York) the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and B¸hl Foundation, New York.