Yousuf Karsh, the Armenian-born Canadian photographer, had a reputation for being overly respectful of his clients, who were almost always famous, powerful, or both. But while a centennial exhibition of 28 brooding, often pretentious images of artists does little to dispel such critiques, Karsh drops scattered, unexpected hints of a more playful mind at work. Karsh photographed cellist Pablo Casals facing away from the camera, playing to a wall whose stones, in the gloom, could be mistaken for heads in an audience. Karsh’s photograph of Frank Lloyd Wright offers an abundance of triangles and diagonals—hardly the forms you’d expect in an image of the horizontal-minded prairie architect. The bristles of the paintbrush in Andy Warhol’s hand distinctly mirror the strands of his famous shock of hair. And Karsh’s image of Georgia O’Keefe recapitulates the skulls, gnarled wood, and adobe walls familiar from Alfred Stieglitz’s photographs of his wife, even as he undercuts the reverence by seemingly peeking around the corner to gaze, distractedly, out an open door.

THE EXHIBIT IS ON DISPLAY MONDAY TO FRIDAY FROM 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. TO DEC. 18 AT THE CANADIAN EMBASSY, 501 PENNSYLVANIA AVE. NW. FREE. (202) 682-1740.

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