(New York: self-published, 1978, an edition of 75), a portfolio of 11 photographs, each signed and editioned '15/75' in pencil and with the portfolio, copyright, and individual title stamps on the reverse, each within individual wrappers numbered sequentially 1 through 11 in pencil, 1948-57, printed in 1978; accompanied by 2 additional prints of Lucy Saroyan and Aram Saroyan and his family in an additional wrapper numbered '*12 for Carol'; together with the printed plate list/colophon, these within another wrapper as issued, signed and editioned '*15/75, *especially for Carol,' in pencil on the front. Folio, linen clamshell box with the photographer's name printed in red
This portfolio was published in conjunction with Avedon's 1978 retrospective exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, September 13 - November 5, 1978.
The portfolio plates are as follows:
Elise Daniels with Street Performers, Suit by Balenciaga, Le Marais, Paris, August 1948
Renée, The New Look of Dior, Place de la Concorde, Paris, August 1949
Dorian Leigh, Coat by Dior, Avenue Montaigne, Paris, August 1949
Carmen (Homage to Munkacsi), Coat by Cardin, Place Françoise Premier, Paris, August 1957
Dorian Leigh, Evening dress by Piguet, Helena Rubinstein apartment, Île St.-Louis, Paris, August 1949
Dorian Leigh, Schiaparelli rhinestones, Pré-Catelan, Paris, August 1949
Sunny Harnett, Evening dress by Grès, Casino, Le Touquet, August 1954
Suzy Parker and Robin Tattersall, Evening dress by Griffe, Folies-Bergère, Paris, August 1957
Elise Daniels, Turban by Paulette, Pré-Catelan, Paris, August 1948
Suzy Parker, Evening dress by Lanvin-Castillo, Café des Beaux Arts, Paris, August 1956
Marlene Dietrich, Turban by Dior, The Ritz, Paris, August 1955
The copy of Richard Avedon's Paris portfolio offered here comes originally from the collection of the photographer's personal friend, the actress and author Carol Matthau (1925–2003). The portfolio was published on the occasion of Avedon's celebrated 1978 retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the first exhibitions at that museum for the work of a living photographer. Carol Matthau and her friend Oona O'Neill Chaplin were given a private tour of the show by Avedon, and afterwards, the three went to his studio for a dinner consisting of champagne, caviar, and brownies. 'Who else would think of a meal that way?' Matthau recalled in her 1992 memoir, Among the Porcupines. 'It was simply perfect. So was the music. So was the conversation. Being with Dick is perfect.' In Among the Porcupines, Matthau devotes a chapter to Richard Avedon, whose friendship she characterized as 'one of the best parts of my life.' Her insights into this internationally famous photographer are both incisive and touching. 'He acts not as the renowned artist he is,' she observed, 'but as a boy who came in the back door. But if you know him, the first thing you know is that nothing is accidental.'
Carol Matthau met Avedon when he was just starting out in New York, with magazine assignments and a small one-room apartment for his new family. Over the years she watched his reputation grow. 'I don't know any woman who doesn't want to be photographed by Dick,' she wrote, and she was lucky enough to have him photograph her for the theatre. When she tried to pay him years later, he tore up the check. In her memoir, she captures his obsessiveness, his brilliance, and his kindness, although to Matthau, he always seemed an outsider. 'Dick is a loner,' she wrote, 'and his generosity is the deepest kind. He wants you to get what you want on your terms. If he gives advice, it is toward getting what you want as you dream it might happen. He understands dreaming when you're awake. He respects fantasy. He does not bury life in practicality.'
It is this quality of fantasy—of not being buried in life's practicalities—that suffuses Avedon's fashion photography, some of the best of which is represented in his now-legendary Paris portfolio. Jumping over puddles in a couture coat, playing roulette in an off-shoulder gown, walking backstage at the Folies-Bergère—Avedon's fashion photographs portray a world that is impossibly elegant, and always filled with adventure, style, and fun.
Carol Matthau's extraordinary life was also the stuff of fantasy. Foster child, then Park Avenue debutante, then actress, author, wife, and mother, Matthau's story could have been a screenplay. Her lifelong friends, from childhood, were Oona O'Neill, daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill, and Gloria Vanderbilt. She acted on Broadway and in the movies. She was one of the inspirations for Holly Golightly in her friend Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's. She published a novel at 30. She had not one, but two, stormy marriages to the tempermental William Saroyan, then found lasting happiness with her second husband, the actor Walter Matthau. Her friend Richard Avedon told her again and again that she must write, and her memoir Among the Porcupines, from which the quotes in this essay are taken, is a witty and clear-eyed homage to her time and her many friends, Avedon included, who made a difference in her life.
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