aka Pilena between Riga and Paris

The two men who captured modern world of art


What a couple! You usually say this about people whom you admire for their love relationship, but this is not the story. Shunk and Kender are two men, whose names you might not have heard that often, but their works most probably you have seen. They are two photographers – Harry Shunk (Germany) and Jean Kender (Hungary) who have captured more than 400 artist portraits in the post-war modern contemporary art world in Paris and New York during 1958-1973.

Together they documented many important events that would have been lost to history if it were not for their work. Let’s name some of the artists – Yayoi Kusama, Joseph Beuys, Alexander Calder, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Jasper Johns, Joan Miró, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Man Ray, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and many more.

One of their most famous photographs in avant-garde art is of artist Yves Klein (top photo) – Leap into the Void (1960). It is an image of the artist soaring over an empty street with an expression of pure bliss on his face. Down below, a bicyclist rides into the distance, unaware of the miraculous occurrence overhead, while at the end of the street a train passes by. Since Klein’s unexpected death, in 1962 at the age of 34, a mystery has remained: how did he make the purported leap?

Most of their work can be found in Roy Lichtenstein Foundation archives, that are available also online.

If you are interested in portraits of different artists, their studios, feel free to visit my Pinterest board – ARTISTS LIFE AND SELF PORTRAITS.


Yayoi Kusama, the Anatomic Explosion, Brooklyn Bridge, NY, 1968


Robert Rauschenberg, artist’s studio, Lafayette Street, NY, 1968


Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped Coast, One Million Square Feet, Little Bay, Sydney, Australia, 1969


Yves Klein






Photos: Shunk-Kender © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation