News : Roger Prigent, 89, Photographer of Alice's "Love It To Death" Album Cover and Antiquarian, Dies
Roger Prigent, who gave up a promising career in fashion photography when his eyesight began to fail three decades ago and who became a prominent Manhattan antiques dealer, leading a popular new wave in French Empire furnishings, died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 89.
Manhattan antiques dealer, specializing in French Empire furnishings. Mr. Prigent shot photos for Vogue and other fashion magazines.
He died at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center of complications of a recent stroke that had left him in a coma, said Lithgow Osborne, his business manager.
Mr. Prigent received a diagnosis of macular degeneration in the late 1970s and had been blind for the last decade, Mr. Osborne said.
A French expatriate and a protégé of the New York fashion photographer Lillian Bassman, Mr. Prigent, a colleague of Richard Avedon, whom he idolized, photographed the great modeling swans of Diane von Furstenberg and other postwar designers for the covers of and glossy spreads in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, McCall's and The Ladies' Home Journal for nearly 30 years, from the early 1950s to the late 1970s.
Editors said his imaginative camera, moving from studios to the sidewalks of New York, Paris, Rome and other capitals of fashion, elongated the giraffe neck of Suzy Parker and with a simple wisp of veil lent mystery to the elegant eyes of Dovima, even as the models' swimsuits, sheaths, wraps, furs, bags, shoes and hats crept subconsciously into the mind.
Mr. Prigent's subjects for the covers of TV Guide were mainstays of entertainment: Sonny and Cher, Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, Leslie Uggams - and his photographs lighted the covers of record albums by Barbra Streisand, Alice Cooper and others.
After the diagnosis of macular degeneration, Mr. Prigent reinvented himself as a dealer in antiques. The choice was not hard. He had been collecting furniture and other pieces for years, storing them in his Upper East Side town house, and was a connoisseur of the Empire style, a neo-Classical revival of Greek and Roman motifs that were developed in the early 19th century during the reign of Napoleon.
"He loved all things Napoleon Bonaparte," Wendy Goodman, the design editor of New York magazine, who had known Mr. Prigent since the 1970s, said Sunday.
"He popularized French Empire, especially in the decorating world at a time when decorators were really key to people. He mentored young designers, and was at the crux of popularizing Empire," Ms. Goodman said.
"What was special about him was his ability to identify that Empire furniture was of interest and value and deserving of recognition, that it would become collectible, with resale value," Mr. Osborne said. Mr. Prigent also promoted Maison Jansen furniture, adaptations of 18th-century French designs made in the 20th century, and collected designs by Jules Leleu, T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings and Karl Springer.
Mr. Prigent called his store Malmaison after the chateau of Napoleon's first wife, Josephine. After a run of several years on 10th Street near Broadway, the store was moved to his town house on East 74th Street near Second Avenue, where three floors were filled with consoles, nesting tables, secretaries, armchairs, sofas, mirrors, marble busts and other pieces.
It became a destination of decorators, designers, collectors and browsers. Rare pieces were exhibited in shows at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mr. Prigent was often quoted in antiques columns in The New York Times and other publications.
While his business prospered, Mr. Prigent's eyes deteriorated. He wore oversize, orange-tinted glasses. By 2002, he was completely blind and sold much of his stock in an auction at Christie's.
"I don't know what I'll do next," he told The New York Observer, "but I don't like habits and things like that. I'm not nostalgic."
Roger Prigent, who pronounced his name in French - Ro-JAY PRE-jhawn, was born on June 13, 1923, in Hanoi, Vietnam, one of four children of Yves Prigent and the former Eugenie Nagar.
His father was a French military officer and Roger grew up and attended schools at his postings in Vietnam; in Damascus, Syria; in Brittany and Paris; and at Fort-de-France on Martinique in the French West Indies.
Mr. Prigent joined the French Air Force during the later stages of World War II and learned photography on aerial reconnaissance missions tracking troop movements. After the war, he was a freelance photographer in Paris whose work appeared for several years in Paris Match and other newsmagazines and newspapers.
Mr. Prigent never married. He is survived by a sister, Yvonne Lacks of Manhattan, and nieces and nephews in France.
He arrived in New York in 1950 on an extended visit, but decided to stay after finding a position in the fashion photography studio of Ms. Bassman, a former art director of Harper's Bazaar, who promoted the careers of Mr. Avedon, Robert Frank, Louis Faurer, Arnold Newman and other celebrated photographers.
Mr. Prigent recalled his first encounter with Mr. Avedon as an awakening. "When I met him," he told The Observer, "it was like meeting the Pope."
He emulated the simple Avedon style in a fashion shoot and it caught the attention of Vogue's art director, Alexander Liberman. Mr. Prigent's first job for Vogue made the cover - the striking profile of a model in a gray hat by Charles James, America's first couturier. Many of Mr. Prigent's later photographs may be found on Internet archives.
Mr. Prigent's second career, in antiques, lasted for decades as his eyesight slowly diminished. When it failed completely, he intended to retire. But he found that he was bored, Mr. Osborne said. After selling his town house and moving to an apartment nearby, he continued selling antiques, by appointment only, with the help of his sister, Yvonne, and his manager. "He was never really out of antiques," said Mitchell Owens, an editor for Architectural Digest and a longtime friend.
By - Robert D. McFadden
- Alice chats on NPR's "Wait Wait... Don't... May 18, 2013
- June 14th Syracuse, NY show CANCELLED - Replaced with... May 16, 2013
- From Ultimate Classic Rock - 38 Years Ago: Alice Cooper... May 16, 2013
- Alice Cooper interview in the Guardian May 14, 2013