Exhibits to See: Yousuf Karsh

March 15, 2009

Yousuf Karsh at the Art Institute of Chicago

by Kaitlyn Miller

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For my current full-time job I am working in the department of visitor services at the Art Institute, specifically for the Edvard Munch exhibit going on now through April 26.

One of the questions I get asked most often is, “I’m only in the city for the day, what is something that I shouldn’t miss?” Although the museum is famous for its very important impressionist paintings (and you should definitely visit them), and there is the special ticketed Edvard Munch exhibit, I point people to my favorite exhibition that is currently on view in the photography galleries: Yosuf Karsh: Regarding Heroes. This retrospective of Karsh’s work includes 100 of his best portrait subjects that he himself preferred. Most of his works span from the 1940s up to the 1960’s. Karsh’s portraits are easily recognizable with iconic photographs of distinguished men and women from the 20th century including people who were influential in politics, the arts, and the sciences. Some notable subjects include: Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Georgia O’Keefe, Jacques Cousteau, and Albert Einstein.

The subject is often photographed in their own environment and the portrait portrays the subject’s personality as well as his or her public image. Through meticulous lighting, Karsh emphasizes dramatic highlights and angles. With this technique, these works share an amazing clarity and rich texture. I am most impressed by this collection of photography because of the intense clarity of his subjects and the feelings they invoke. I was even surprised that these were portraits taken in that time period, without the use of modern-day digital cameras and post-production applications. The exhibit runs through April 26 and if you’re in Chicago and want to see something of substance, come visit me and the exhibit at the Art Institute!

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