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Horst Photographer of Style – at the V&A until January

December 21, 2014

ArtsFashionPhotography | by James Joseph


Summer Fashions, American Vogue cover, 15 May 1941, © Condé Nast / Horst Estate
Summer Fashions, American Vogue cover, 15 May 1941, © Condé Nast / Horst Estate

 

Your last chance to take this exhaustive journey through the life’s work of Horst, one of French Vogue’s photography golden boys. This exhibition smacks of 1930s to 50s glamour and regales a chocolate box perfect story of how Horst moved to Paris in the 30s and was taken under the wing by Vogue photographer George Hoyningen-Huene who taught him the ways of the large format camera in the Paris Vogue studios. Horst then went on to take his place a French Vogue’s star photographer. During his career Horst became known for his dramatic lighting, his A list friendships and worked for both American Vogue and British Vogue as well as being principal photographer at French Vogue. The exhibition is peppered with previously unpublished vintage prints as well as Vintage black and white photographs from the archive of Paris Vogue, displayed alongside garments in shades of black, white, silver and gold by Parisian couturiers such as Chanel, Lanvin, Molyneux and Vionnet.

 

Horst directing fashion shoot with Lisa Fonssagrives, 1949, Photo by Roy Stevens /Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images
Horst directing fashion shoot with Lisa Fonssagrives, 1949, Photo by Roy Stevens /Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

 

Patterns from Nature Photographic Collage, c. 1945, © Condé Nast / Horst Estate
Patterns from Nature Photographic Collage, c. 1945, © Condé Nast / Horst Estate

Alongside the exhibition images are displayed objects, sketches and anecdotes giving us juicy little details that provide a window into Horst’s thought processes and relationships with the starlets he photographed. Stars like the model Lud who ‘would look over the garments in the Vogue studio and only pose in the ones she liked best’ and Coco Chanel with whom Horst was so close that she had a lighter custom made for him – which is also included in the exhibition.

 

Beyond beauty and decadence we are treated to an in-depth look at this iconic photographers lesser known photography styles and phases. As well as the inevitable yet sombre images taken while serving in the army, there are also rooms dedicated to his travel photographs taken in the 1940s and 1950s of Israel, Iran, Syria, Italy and Morocco, his surrealist works inspired in part by his friendship with Dali, his male nudes and Patterns From Nature project.

 

Installation image of Horst - Photographer of Style, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Installation image of Horst – Photographer of Style, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

A catwalk-esque display of 90 Vogue covers stretches the length of one room surrounded by 25 large colour photographs, newly printed from the original transparencies in the Condé Nast Archive. The show boasts 250 photographs, haute couture garments, sketches, magazines, film footage and a detailed look at the creative process behind some of Horst’s most famous photographs. Such as the Mainbocher Corset which is revealed as before and after images of the retouching process. Horst preferring the original loosened look of the corset, feeling it to be more provocative than the retouched version.

 

Corset by Detolle for Mainbocher, 1939, © Condé Nast / Horst Estate
Corset by Detolle for Mainbocher, 1939, © Condé Nast / Horst Estate

 

An insightful and in-depth walk through Horst’s life of glamour and beauty and the immaculate images he left us with.

 

Horst Photographer of Style is on at the V&A until the 4th of January 2015. For more information go to www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/exhibition-horst-photographer-of-style

 

Arts Editor, Maxine Kirsty Sapsford