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Model as Muse

Art meets life meets art in Harper’s Bazaar’s April issue from 2016, for which models Anna Ewers, Liya Kebede, Christy Turlington, and Linda Evangelista sat for world famous portraiture Francesco Clemente, and then struck the same pose alongside the portraits for photos by Jason Schmidt. Inside the issue, each model talks about the experience of sitting for Clemente and their thoughts on aging as part of the month’s Fabulous at Every Age theme.

While a 23 years old Anna Ewers spoke of her 20s like “the most exciting years of my life,” Christy Turlington said all the good things in her life happened post 30. “But I guess you’re always in a state of becoming. I love the pictures Alfred Stieglitz took of Georgia O’Keeffe. He photographed her over and over through the years, so he had this portrait of her that wasn’t just a moment, it was all the parts of her over time. I kind of see it like that.”

Anna Ewers – Photo: Jason Schmidt
Christy Turlington – Photo: Jason Schmidt
Georgia O’Keeffe — Hand and Wheel (1933) by Alfred Stieglitz – One of the most important photographers of the 20th century, Stieglitz made hundreds of pictures of his wife, painter Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), recording her physical and psychological evolution from 1917 to 1937. This image was taken at Lake George, where O’Keeffe was completing a long recovery from an emotional breakdown she suffered the previous year. To convey her affection for her Ford V-8 convertible — a potent symbol of her personal freedom — the photographer posed her leaning against the shiny spare tire cover on the back of the auto, highlighting her arms and hands. Despite her joy at being united with the vehicle, the darkly toned portrait captures O’Keeffe’s lifeless, distant eyes and somber face, revealing her prevailing despondency.
Portrait of Gwyneth Paltrow for Alfonso Cuarón’s Great Expectations (1998) Movie Poster – Francesco Clemente

Liya Kebede chose to sit for Francesco once she found out that he had painted the portrait of Gwyneth Paltrow, in the 1998 film Great Expectations. “I was so excited. I remember when I watched that movie, the portrait really touched me.”

Many of the women had never sat for a portrait and therefore not been examined in the specific way that a painter does – looking but also choosing what to focus on and how to present it, perhaps with more control than that of a photographer. As Liya said, “the relationship with a painter is so different… he’s so focused on you, and you’re always wondering, ‘What could he be looking at?’ It’s so penetrating.”

As for Linda Evangelista, when she was invited to pose for Francesco, she was 50. She kept saying to herself, “Linda, he wouldn’t have accepted to do this if he didn’t like you.” She didn’t know it would take five hours, but then she was shocked by that “exaggerated version” of herself. “I thought it was beautiful. And I never think anything is beautiful.”

Liya Kebede – Photo: Jason Schmidt
Linda Evangelista – Photo: Jason Schmidt
Iman – Photo: Jason Schmidt

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