moritz gallery

Lucien Clergue

Urban Nude Portfolio
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Clergue’s early photographic images explored the destruction and poverty of postwar Arles. By 1955, he had made 1,500 photographs of young acrobats in the ruins in Arles. The following year he began pursuing a subject that continues to capture his interest: the nude in the sea. In 1957, Corps Memorables, his first book of nudes in the sea was published with Paul Eluard’s poetry. Other themes, which Clergue has explored, include photographs of bullfights, dead animals, and the marshland of the Provence. In 1970, he started a series on the nude in the forest. By 1975, his interest in photographing the nude led him to explore this subject in urban environments, using reflections from glass and mirrors as elements of a dream state.



Lucien Clergue was born in Arles, France in 1934. He began studying photography when he was 15 years old and in 1953, he began his career as the first to photograph Picasso in the Roman arena at Arles. His friendship with the master continued until Picasso’s death in 1973. During these years, Picasso guided him, and introduced him to significant artists such as Jean Cocteau. Clergue collaborated with Cocteau for many years and had influential relationships with such renowned individuals as Edward Weston, Manitas de Plata and the Matador, El Cordobes.

Clergue received a musical education and Ph.D. in letters from the University of Provence, Marseilles, France, in 1979. He has taught at the University of Provence and the New School for Social Research in New York City, and has lectured at photographic workshops throughout the world.

Clergue’s work has been exhibited throughout the world in over 120 solo shows. His many exhibitions include: The Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; Modern Museet, Stockholm; the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Witkin Gallery and the French Institute in New York; Il Diaframma, Milan; the Shadai Gallery and Hihon University in Tokyo; the National Gallery of Ottawa; the Royal Library at Brussels; and the Kunsthaus at Zurich. A two-person show of his bull-fighting photographs and works in various media by his friend, Picasso, was exhibited nationally.

Clergue assisted in the filming of Jean Cocteau's, Le Testamend d’Orphee, and by 1065 he started making his own films such as Manitas de Plata (1968), Picasso, de Guernica aux Mousquetaires (1969) and La Foret Calcinee (1970). In addition to his films he has authored nearly 40 monographs.

A dedicated leader in the worldwide photographic community, he co-founded the Department of Photography at the Musee Reattu in Arles with J. M. Rouquette in 1965. Seven years later, he was named artistic director of the Arles Festival. This international exposition prospered under his tutelage and Les Recontres Internationales de la Photographie celebrated its 30th anniversary in July, 1999.

Lucien Clergue received the Legion of Honor Award at Arles on July 4th,  2003. The award was presented by the French Minister of Culture and Communications, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, as part of the opening festivities of the 34th annual Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie, founded by Clerque in 1969, and now the largest of its kind in Europe. The Legion of Honor, created by Napoleon in 1802, is France's most highly regarded order of merit conferred on eminent people in all walks of life who have performed extraordinary services to humankind. The oly previous recipients in the field of photography are Henri Cartier-Bresson and Andre Kertesz. Clerque received the award in recognition of his lifetime achievements in photography.