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"Karshed": Yousuf Karsh Selected Portraits

January 31 to July 5, 2009

The aim and the art of the portraitist who works with a camera are not merely to produce a likeness but to reveal the mind and the soul behind the human face ... Only in a space of time far too short for measurement does a man fully express himself, and then unconsciously—by the glint of an eye, a sudden change of mood, a casual but deeply significant gesture of the hand. There is always a revealing moment, a moment of truth, which if lost, may never be recaptured.

—Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh's search to capture his subject's soul on photographic film led to the development of his signature portrait style. In 1941, after Winston Churchill’s pivotal speech to the House of Commons, it was arranged by Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King that Karsh photograph the British Prime Minister. Churchill, unaware that his picture was to be taken, was uncooperative at first. In an unpremeditated movement, Karsh snatched the cigar from Churchill’s mouth. The resulting image of the scowling Prime Minister became the symbol of British resistance and skyrocketed Karsh to international fame. Following the overwhelming success of this portrait, the term "Karshed" was introduced into the lexicon of popular culture, describing the experience of being photographed by this master portraitist.

Over his sixty-year career, Karsh became renowned for his photographs of leading modern age personalities. Producing images of major figures in the twentieth century, Karsh’s portrait portfolio includes celebrated pictures of Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway, Queen Elizabeth II, Charles de Gaulle, Pablo Picasso, and a succession of popes, presidents and other luminaries.

“Karshed”: Yousuf Karsh Selected Portraits presents a series of images produced from the 1940s to the 1990s of some of the most influential people that the photographer recorded over the course of his career. Undertaken as a personal initiative, Karsh made a limited number of these photographic prints that were published in two separate portfolios - the only two limited edition portfolios that Karsh produced in his lifetime.

The "Karshed": Yousuf Karsh Selected Portraits  exhibition opens at the McMichael on January 31, 2009.

Press KitPDF (608KB)

Yousuf Karsh , (1908-2002)
Ernest Hemingway , 1957
photograph, gelatin silver print
©The Estate of Yousuf Karsh

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