This portrait of Dimitri Tiomkin in black-tie formal, arms crossed, and smiling was taken by Gyenes at his studio in Madrid. The Hungarian-born photographer, Gyenes János, spent most of his life working in Spain as Juan Gyenes (1912-1995). Gyenes, now recognized as one of the top portrait photographers of the 20th century, captured imaginative images of personalities, celebrities, theater and dance performers, bullfighters, and Spanish aristocrats. A short list of subjects in the art, performing arts, and music worlds include Charles Chaplin, Salvador Dalí, Charlton Heston, Pablo Picasso, Andrés Segovia, and Herbert von Karajan. Portraits taken between 1966 and 1988 as the official photographer of the Teatro Real—the Madrid opera house known simply as El Real—make up a large body of his work.
Gyenes studied music and brought a knowledge of European photography and painting to his studio. Biographer Pilar Irala Hortal in The A-Z of Spanish Photographers notes “his work is defined by a careful technique, original compositions, expert handling of light and shadows.” In the photograph above, Tiomkin’s face is perfectly lit with light and shadows, while the contrast between the jet black suit and glowingly bright yet shadowy background light creates a dramatic flair. The contrast between the dark formal dress and light bright smile is perhaps Gyenes best attempt at capturing the soul of his subject.
While the photograph is not dated, there is a good chance it was taken around December 1963 when Tiomkin was in Madrid during filming of The Fall of the Roman Empire at the Samuel Bronston studios. (A picture published in Billboard during Tiomkin’s stay in Madrid is accompanied by a caption that includes, “Tiomkin will tour Spain soon with Barbra Streisand and variety show.”) Soon after, the Spanish government awarded Tiomkin the Order of Queen Isabella, one of Spain’s highest decorations.
The featured picture is number 3 in a series of nine portraits taken at Gyenes Estudio Fotográfico at 12 Isabel la Católica, a seven-minute walk via Plaza Santo Domingo from the Teatro Real. The image on the front cover of Christopher Palmer’s Dimitri Tiomkin: A Portrait is number 8 in the series.
Below, reproduced together for the first time, are all nine portraits.
Check back next month for a look at more of Tiomkin’s publicity portraits.
“Photo Gallery of Newsmakers,” Billboard, December 14, 1963
(Ninth in an occasional series featuring rare or unusual photographs.)
Check out other photographs in this series…
1. Behind the photograph (Dimitri Tiomkin with His Excellency the High Commissioner for Kenya, Mr. Ng-Ethe Njoroge and Mrs. Njoroge at the London premiere of Tchaikovsky)