The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Search the Collection

Irving Penn

(1917-2009), Photographer

Artist of 30 portraits
Penn studied at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art. He worked as art director of the department store Saks Fifth Avenue and spent a year painting in Mexico before joining the staff of Vogue in 1943 where, on the suggestion of its art director, Alexander Lieberman, he started working as a photographer. The following year he joined the U.S. Field Service on ambulance duty, and served with the British Army in Italy and India. After the war Penn returned immediately to Vogue, making fashion pictures, still lives, portraits and theatrical compositions. From 1953 he also worked from his own studio. Penn won many awards and his pictures are in numerous museums and permanent collections.

More on Penn: Timeline
Watch a film clip on the sitter from the BBC Archive in the Media section below

Tell us More

 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Make a donation Close

List Thumbnail

Dame Ivy Compton-Burnett, by Irving Penn - NPG P1397

Dame Ivy Compton-Burnett

by Irving Penn
gelatin silver print, 1958
NPG P1397

Arnold Joseph Toynbee; Philip Toynbee, by Irving Penn - NPG P1399

Arnold Joseph Toynbee; Philip Toynbee

by Irving Penn
gelatin silver print, 1958
NPG P1399

Francis Bacon, by Irving Penn - NPG P587

Francis Bacon

by Irving Penn
platinum palladium print, 1962
NPG P587

Somerset Maugham, by Irving Penn - NPG P594

Somerset Maugham

by Irving Penn
platinum palladium print, 1962
NPG P594

Laurence Olivier, by Irving Penn - NPG P596

Laurence Olivier

by Irving Penn
platinum palladium print, 1962
NPG P596

Tom Stoppard, by Irving Penn - NPG P601

Tom Stoppard

by Irving Penn
vintage gelatin silver print, 1984
NPG P601

Cecil Beaton; Dorian Leigh, by Irving Penn - NPG x40470

Cecil Beaton; Dorian Leigh

by Irving Penn
bromide silver print, 1947
NPG x40470

Cary Grant; Betsy Drake, by Irving Penn - NPG x199795

Cary Grant; Betsy Drake

by Irving Penn
gelatin silver print, 1950
NPG x199795

Cecil Beaton, by Irving Penn - NPG x40469

Cecil Beaton

by Irving Penn
glossy unglazed bromide silver print, 1951
NPG x40469


Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this person? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license an image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.


How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.


Pioneer Podcasts

Listen to a series of podcasts exploring the lives of pioneering women, past and present.

Explore the podcasts

Untitled, c.1973 (Alex Chilton) by William Eggleston © Eggleston Artistic Trust

Eggleston Playlist

William Eggleston was closely associated with the alternative music scene in Memphis. Revisit our 2016 exhibition and listen to a special playlist.

Listen to the playlist

Archive interviews

Links to audio and transcripts of interviews with artists, sitters and historic recordings.

Watch, listen and read