Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, a multi talent (Part two)

31 Aug
Eiffel Tower by Erwin Blumenfeld for Vogue magazine, 1939. Lucien Lelong dressLisa Fonssagrives wearing a dress by Lucien Lelong in death-defying pose high on top of the Eiffel Tower overlooking the city of Paris. Photo by Erwin Blumenfeld, French Vogue, May 1939


In 1952, Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, the celebrated (first) supermodel effectively retires from modeling after her son, Tom Penn, is born. She begins designing clothes by the mid-’50s. At first just an occasional dress for one of her husband’s (Irving Penn) advertising campaigns, but then people begin to special order evening gowns and suddenly she finds herself designing a line of at-home clothes for Lord and Taylor. Eventually she designs sportswear for them too. This lasts a good six years. When Lisa and Irving have to move, because the Central Park West building will be torn down, she stops designing, not being allowed to have a business in the new apartment. It is time for something else.

In their Long Island house, Lisa spends more and more time in her sculpture studio and enrolls in the Art Students League to sharpen her drawing skills. Finally Lisa and Irving move to Long Island definitely. 

She begins exhibiting her sculptures and paintings in group shows in 1968 and later has many solo shows. She will be represented by the Marlborough Gallery in Manhattan.

“I was a sculptor all my life,” Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn once said, “I was a form in space.”

Lisa dies February 4, 1992 in New York of pneumonia , survived by her second husband, Irving Penn and her two children: her daughter Mia Fonssagrives-Solow, a costume designer who is married to real estate developer Sheldon Solow, and her son, Tom Penn, a designer.

David Seidner, Lisa Fonssagrives at the Crillon, Paris, 1990Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn in the Crillon, Paris (by David Seidner, 1990) was a multi talent. During her life she was a successful dancer/ dance teacher, model, photographer, fashion designer and sculptor.



Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar covers

The black and white issue June 1950, Irving PennPh. Irving Penn
lisa-fonssagrives-British-Vogue-1951-London-Paris-Collections-Erwin-BlumenfeldPh. Erwin Blumenfeld


British Vogue Oct. 1951, cover by Irving PennPh. Irving Penn
Vogue coverPh. Horst P. Horst
Ph, Irving PennPh. Irving Penn
dec-1950-vogue-lisa-fonssagrives-coverPh. Irving Penn  
Louise Dahl-WolfePh. Louise Dahl-Wolf
Harper's Bazaar cover

And many other beautiful photographs



lisa by Irving PennPh. Irving Penn
Lisa FonssagrivesChicken Hat, ph. Irving Penn
lisa , chicken hat
Chicken Hat, ph. Irving Penn (2)
lisa-fonssagrives-lilly-dache-hat-irving-penn-vogue-feb-15-1950 Lilly Dache hat, Ph. Irving Penn
penn, 1949
 Ph. Irving Penn
Ph. Irving Penn
Lisa Fonssagrives
  Ph. Irving Penn
suit by Charles James, Vogue, 1950 Horst
Ph. Horst P. Horst
 Ph. Irving Penn

Irving PennPh. Irving Penn

Vogue early 40's image by Horst Model Lisa FonssagrivesPh. Horst P. Horst
Irving Penn for Vogue, July 1, 1952Ph. Irving Penn
1955 Modess advertisement. Yes, you read that right. Modess as in sanitary napkins.
 Modess advertisement, sanitary napkins. Ph. Irving Penn




Lisa Fonssagrives: Three Decades of Classic Fashion Photography

book cover


Irving Penn: Photographs. A Donation in Memory of Lisa Fonssagrive-Penn

irving penn

The complete set of images that Irving Penn donated to the Swedish museum in memory of his Swedish-born wife. A gorgeous production with exquisite printing.



Harper´s Bazaar, 1957

info: Wikipedia, VoguePedia and interview with David Seidner

6 Responses to “Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, a multi talent (Part two)”

  1. CARLOS 1 April 2016 at 23:10 #

    Some of those photos above are not of Lisa Fonssagrives

    • Krystine Patterson 17 August 2016 at 05:17 #

      Photo 20 is Evelyn Tripp & photo 21 is Sunny Harnett.

      • A.G.Nauta couture 17 August 2016 at 10:24 #

        Thank you so much! I’ve taken out photo 20 & 21,

        with regards,


  1. Sculpture | Robots à la Fonssagrives « Pedro Silmon The Blog - 27 February 2015

    […] States in 1939, she had already achieved international modelling stardom and was recognisable from the covers of magazines such as Town & Country, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. Working with fashion photographers […]

  2. Amazing Vintage Photos of Fashion’s First Supermodel Lisa Fonssagrives | FROM THE BYGONE - 31 January 2016

    […] Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, a multi talent (Part two) […]

  3. Miss Onion’s Exquisite Finds – No 57 – MISS ONION’S EXQUISITE FINDS - 17 September 2021

    […] herself as a clothes designer and then a sculptor in later life. Read more about her life here and here. There are so many iconic images of her by […]

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