Karsh Signature

Yousuf Karsh, master photographer of the 20th century

Karsh: Regarding Heroes

Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 2011

'Yousuf Karsh is one of the world’s greatest portrait photographers; no one else has photographed so many men and women of international renown. To be “Karshed” is a mark of accomplishment. This exhibition was created as a retrospective marking the 2008 centenary of Yousuf Karsh’s birth and includes 100 portraits from a collection of master prints donated to the Art Institute of Chicago by Karsh’s widow, Estrellita Karsh. The prints are considered Karsh’s favorites and are presented together for the first time ever.

What makes the portraits favorites of Karsh are their ability to capture each iconic personality in that rare moment when the mask of celebrity was dropped to reveal the person’s true inner personality. Through Karsh’s portraits we are able to rediscover the imminent personalities of the past 100 years. Karsh’s images are approachable by anyone regardless of language or culture. He was able to take icons such as Walt Disney, Fidel Castro and Mother Teresa, off the pedestal and find their inner humanism. Karsh’s personal recollections of each portrait sitting are captured in his images. The serene Audrey Hepburn regaled Karsh with her experiences of the Second World War, and Winston Churchill told Karsh “You can even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed".

Surrounded in a gallery by these expertly crafted photographs, one feels present at a marvelous party attended by history’s most famous people. Karsh makes world renowned people approachable in a way unimaginable - he provides the viewer with the masterful illusion that he knows each icon in an intimate way. Curated by David Travis, Former Chair and Curator of Photography at The Chicago Art Institute. The exhibition is organized by The Art Institute of Chicago and is toured by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, Pasadena, California.'

What Karsh Saw in Calgary.

'In 1954, Yousuf Karsh visited Calgary on a photo assignment for Maclean’s magazine. While here, he discovered that Calgary was more than a city full of cowboys and wanted to convey this to Maclean’s nationwide readership. As the article describes, “Calgarians live in sold brick and frame houses, not tepees, and raise sky scrapers, not smoke signals, to the sun.”

Karsh approached Calgary as a subject, the same way he prepared for his portraits of famous people. He researched the city thoroughly and looked for the “inner power” of Calgary. To capture Calgary’s western roots, he photographed the activities of the Calgary Stampede and fearlessly climbed into the corral during a roping display. Karsh also immortalized the people and architecture that helped form the face of Calgary. He believed Calgary’s ranch style homes showed more originality than homes he had seen in any other Canadian city. Furthermore, he was impressed byseveral of Calgary’s business leaders, including Glenbow’s founder, Eric Harvie.

In the early 1970s, Karsh returned to Alberta to photograph another important leader - Premier Peter Lougheed. The two hit it off immediately and Karsh photographed Premier Lougheed again in the years that followed. Our knowledge of Yousuf Karsh’s visit to Calgary, and his acquaintance with former Premier Peter Lougheed, are possible thanks to the extensive research materials held in Glenbow Library and Archives. Research of this kind allows even travelling exhibitions to become more inspiring and relevant to Calgarians.'

Colleen Sharpe
The Glenbow Museum

'This season at Glenbow we explore the many facets of portraiture. The American fashion photographer Richard Avedon once said “A portrait is not a likeness.” Renowned Canadian portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh determined that it was his job to revel the “secret hidden” within every man and woman. Interesting portraiture reveals what is not necessarily obvious at first glance – a characteristic, an emotion, or a mood. Don’t miss the exclusive opportunity to see Karsh: Regarding Heroes featuring 100 portraits of the famous and the infamous, selected from the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection of Karsh’s work. The exhibition highlights those photographs considered to be Karsh’s favorites and is a revealing portrait of what the artist regarded as his most interesting work.'

Kirstin Evenden
M.A. President and CEO
The Glenbow Museum, Calendar of Events