LISA FONSSAGRIVES PENN

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The world's first "supermodel"

Lisa Fonssagrive's Penn was beautiful, intelligent and cultivated. She was the first supermodel, long before the term was even invented. In the mid-1900s, no other model adorned the covers of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar as often as she did. And she was Swedish. Lisa Fonssagrives was born in May 1911 and was initially named Lisa Birgitta Bernstone. A surname like her father, Uddevalla's first dentist came when he was not happy with Andersson.

She was one of three sisters who grew up in a villa on Lagerbergsgatan in Uddevalla that was demolished in the 1960s to make room for a parking space. The villa had been designed by architect Eugene Thorburn. Holiday homes were a little further south, at Raneberg, in Resteröd a little north of Ljungskile. The holiday home was called Ranehill.

In these two places and in these two houses the three sisters Lisa, Lilian and Kajsa grew up. The two older sisters traveled to Paris to attend a circus school. Lisa then joined a dance company where she met the French dancer Fernand Fonssagrives.

When Fernand was forced to end his dance career due to injuries after a diving accident, Lisa gave him a Rolleiflex camera and together Fernand and Lisa embarked on a romance, marriage and an incredible career journey. They also had a daughter together Mia Fonssagrives.

Fernand was for some time the best-paid photographer in New York and Lisa Fonssagrives the most sought after model. When the two moved to the US just before World War II, the relationship ended. Lisa met the photographer Irving Penn and married him in 1950. Lisa also became Irving Penn's great source of inspiration and favorite model. They held a second wedding in Resteröd church in 1991, one year before Lisa died.

Fernand Fonssagrive's and Irving Penn's photos with Lisa became legendary and many of them iconic. When the career as a photo model was over, Lisa instead became a successful sculptor and in 1995 the Moderna Museet in Stockholm had a retrospective exhibition dedicated to Lisa Fonssagrive's Penn, which consisted of Irving Penn's photos and Lisa Fonssagrive's Penn sculptures.

Saut et Bateau, 1937 South of France.

There are incredible stories about Lisa and Fernand's image treasures.

Here on the left. The first photograph of a two-piece bikini ever published.

Hand sewn by Lisa