There's nothing for photographer Richard Avedon to prove anymore, and the evidence is here in a stunning collection of his powerful portraits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in an exhibition that continues through January 5, 2003. Avedon, although having earned his reputation as a superb fashion photographer, has made portraits of the famous as well as the unknown dating to the late 1940s. The large prints on display--180 of them--not only survey Avedon's work but contribute to a historical record of more than half of the 20th century.

The photographs reveal Avedon's ability to convey fascinating takes on his subjects through their expressions and attitudes. There's a lovely portrait of Marilyn Monroe, for example, that suggests her vulnerability. One of Charlie Chaplin, taken in 1952, when he left for Europe and was told by the U.S. government that he wasn't welcome back, shows the star with his fingers pointing upward from his head to resemble horns of the devil. There is a powerful picture of singer Marian Anderson in performance, and another showing the stuffiness of a group of Daughters of the American Revolution, the organization that tried to ban her from singing.

Avedon captured many political figures, and he also took impressive photographs of social icons. There's a memorable portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Among his portraits of cultural notables are one of Samuel Beckett and another of Bert Lahr performing in Beckett's "Waiting for Godot." There's a particularly good study of Buster Keaton. Most striking is the huge panel picturing Andy Warhol and his entourage, including several posing nude. There are too many subjects in this amazing collection to mention here. Don't miss taking a stroll through this exhibit to savor for yourself the work of this distinguished artist who has raised photographic portraiture to such a high level. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street. Phone: 212-535-7710.

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