Karsh


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Winston Churchill, 1941 © Yousuf Karsh

There are a lot of events going on around Sir Winston Churchill this year, and we are involved in a few, not least of all the Order of Service for the wreath laying in his honour at the Houses of Parliament on January 30th, which is the 50th anniversary of his State Funeral. Here at the Karsh Estate we are proud to work closely with the Churchill Center and archives, and I thought I'd take this opportunity to publish the Smiling portrait, rather than the Roaring Lion with which we are all so familiar, as this image is being used by the Center and its partners.

For those of you who don't know the story of the Churchill photo shoot, here it is:

"My portrait of Winston Churchill changed my life. I knew after I had taken it that it was an important picture, but I could hardly have dreamed that it would become one of the most widely reproduced images in the history of photography. In 1941, Churchill visited first Washington and then Ottawa. The Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, invited me to be present. After the electrifying speech, I waited in the Speaker's Chamber where, the evening before, I had set up my lights and camera. 

The Prime Minister, arm-in-arm with Churchill and followed by his entourage, started to lead him into the room. I switched on my floodlights; a surprised Churchill growled, "What's this, what's this?" No one had the courage to explain. I timorously stepped forward and said, "Sir, I hope I will be fortunate enough to make a portrait worthy of this historic occasion." He glanced at me and demanded, "Why was I not told?" When his entourage began to laugh, this hardly helped matters for me. Churchill lit a fresh cigar, puffed at it with a mischievous air, and then magnanimously relented. "You may take one." Churchill's cigar was ever present. I held out an ashtray, but he would not dispose of it. I went back to my camera and made sure that everything was all right technically. I waited; he continued to chomp vigorously at his cigar. I waited. Then I stepped toward him and, without premeditation, but ever so respectfully, I said, "Forgive me, sir," and plucked the cigar out of his mouth. By the time I got back to my camera, he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me. It was at that instant that I took the photograph." - Yousuf Karsh, 1908 - 2002.
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Anita Ekberg, 1956 by Yousuf Karsh

In the book "Regarding Heroes" Karsh said of his 1956 session with Anita Ekberg, "The smorgasbord was already lavishly spread on the table of Anita Ekberg's California home when I arrived. Her natural behavior resembled the love goddesses she portrayed - uninhibited and seductive, and totally without guile. When changing from one gown to another, she ignored the screen her attendant had place before her. She exuded sexuality; in the garden, as she exuberantly hugged a tree trunk, it became a gesture of utmost sensuality."

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© Yousuf Karsh
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Josip Broz Tito, 1954 by Yousuf Karsh

Some fresh images in to the Karsh digital archives, of Josip Broz Tito, a Yugoslav revolutionary and highly decorated statesman. Also, a creative smoker! 

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All images © Yousuf Karsh
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Reverend Billy Graham, by Yousuf Karsh

Billy Graham is in the news a fair amount, mostly just because he is still alive. Mr Graham celebrated his 96th birthday last month. Here are just a few of the gorgeous Karsh portraits of the evangelist, taken in 1972. 

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All images © Yousuf Karsh
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Hillary and Bill Clinton, 1993 © Yousuf Karsh

Just received my copies of Time's new book "Hillary: An American Life" which includes this here colour portrait by Mr Karsh. Karsh officially retired in 1992, closing his studio at the Château Laurier in Ottawa that year. Per their website, "World-class portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh lived at the Château for 18 years. He also operated his studio from the sixth floor; there he photographed international celebrities between 1970 and 1992. Karsh gave seven of his famous portraits to the hotel when he moved in 1998. Years later, his wife Estrellita gifted an addition eight portraits to the hotel. These outstanding images are now part Fairmont Château Laurier's history and are located in the Reading Lounge and the Karsh Suite."

Upon taking office Mr Clinton assumed that every US president was "Karshed" and Mr Karsh was persuaded out of retirement to make some photos with Bill and Hillary. 

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Hillary Clinton, 1993 © Yousuf Karsh
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Lauren Bacall, 1957, © Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh photographed several Hollywood film stars in the 40s and 50s and in fact there will be an exhibition of them at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston this fall: "Karsh Goes Hollywood" opens on September 8th, 2014. Here's Lauren Bacall, and Karsh's classic photograph of Humphrey Bogart as a bonus.

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Humphrey Bogart, 1946 © Yousuf Karsh
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Elie Wiesel © Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh "American Portraits" exhibition is still on at the National Portrait Gallery in DC through November 4th, 2014. A representative of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity got in touch having just seen the Wiesel portrait which is on view. The exhibition includes the colour image, but here is a black and white for good measure.

Karsh stopped working in 1992, and Mr Wiesel was among the last people photographed. Although, 1991 was still an interesting year - he also photographed Cesar Chavez, Marilyn Horne, Arnold Palmer, David Rockefeller, and Billy Wilder.

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© Yousuf Karsh
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Eleanor Roosevelt, 1957 © Yousuf Karsh

The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC launched the second round of a Karsh exhibition, as curated by Ann Shumard with Estrellita Karsh who generously donated over 100 vintage prints. The exhibition is on the ground floor and round one received between 250,000 and 300,000 visitors. 

This classic image of Ms Roosevelt is in the show, and has just been licensed by the National Parks Service for use in materials at the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site in New York. I thought I'd like to publish the other frame that not so many people are familiar with.

Non-Americans: she was an absolute powerhouse, it's worth looking her up. "Roosevelt was a controversial First Lady for her outspokenness, particularly her stance on racial issues. She was the first presidential spouse to hold press conferences, write a syndicated newspaper column, and speak at a national convention. On a few occasions, she publicly disagreed with her husband's policies." Can you imagine??

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Eleanor Roosevelt, 1957 © Yousuf Karsh

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William Lyon Mackenzie King and Winston Churchill, 1941 © Yousuf Karsh

We're all familiar with the portrait of Winston Churchill that Yousuf Karsh made in December, 1941, after Churchill finished his famous "some chicken, some neck!" speech at the Canadian Parliament. The story behind the Roaring Lion, as the photograph has come to be known, is not apocryphal: Karsh did whip the cigar from Churchill's mouth. But the funniest part of the story is that William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, kind of set Karsh up. He hadn't told Churchill he was to be photographed and Churchill was not amused upon being delivered to Karsh's set. "Why was I not told?" he bellowed, and apparently everyone else in the room laughed. "This did not help my cause any!" complains Karsh, in this fabulous clip from "60 Minutes with Morley Safer." 

Churchill gave Karsh permission to make one more photograph, in which he is smiling broadly, as he is here, where Mr King has clearly enjoyed his little game.
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The Marx Brothers, 1948 © Yousuf Karsh

We are proud to have this portrait of the Marx Brothers presented as part of the supporting materials for the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow's exhibition "Andy Warhol: Ten Portraits of Famous Jews of the Twentieth Century" which is on now. There is an interview with the curator on the New Contemporary website about the differences between this exhibition and its original that showed at the Jewish Museum in New York in 1980.
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