French photographer Lucien Clergue has died aged 80. The photographer was a long-time friend of Pablo Picasso and the founder of Europe’s largest photography festival, he passed away Saturday, his daughter told AFP. Anne Clergue said her father, who “fought for photography to be recognised as an art in France,” had died in the southern city of Nimes after a long illness.
She added in a statement to the press that the photographer would now be “reunited in heaven” with his old friends Pablo Picasso and French playwright Jean Cocteau. On November 4, 1955, Lucien Clergue visited Pablo Picasso in Cannes, France. Their friendship went on to last nearly 30 years until Picasso’s death.
Clergue’s photographs are in the collections of a number of well-known museums and private collections. His photographs have been exhibited in over 100 solo exhibitions worldwide, with noted exhibitions which include, the Museum of Modern Art New York in 1961, the last exhibition organised by Edward Steichen with Lucien Clergue, Bill Brandt and Yasuhiro Ishimoto. Museums with large collections of his work include The Fogg Museum at Harvard University, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
His works led Clergue to be the first photographer to be admitted to the elite Academie Francaise, the guardian of the French language. The photographer was born in the south of France in Arles and took a very early interest in the arts at age seven. But it was the photographer’s pictures that would get him noticed by the art world.
“His first photos won the enthusiasm of Picasso, with whom he founded an unwavering friendship,” French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin said in a statement.
“France, the home of photography, has lost one of its greatest ambassadors who carried this art to the four corners of the world,” said former French culture minister Jack Lang.