Monday, January 11, 2010

Horst Photography Is A Study in Elegance, Style and Rarefied Glamour


In the history of twentieth-century fashion and portrait photography, Horst's contribution figures as one of the most artistically significant and long lasting, spanning as it did the sixty years between 1931 and 1991. During this period, his name became legendary as a one-word photographic byline, and his photographs came to be seen as synonymous with the creation of images of elegance, style and rarefied glamour.

Born on 14 August 1906, Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann was the second son of a prosperous middle class Protestant shop owner, Max Bohrmann and his wife, Klara Schoenbrodt.



The first pictures that carried a Horst credit line appeared in the December 1931 issue of French Vogue. It was a full-page advertisement showing a model in black velvet holding a Klytia scent bottle in one hand with the other hand raised elegantly above it... Horst's real breakthrough as a published fashion and portrait photographer was in the pages of British Vogue... starting with the 30 March 1932 issue showing three fashion studies and a full-page portrait of the daughter of Sir James Dunn, the art patron and supporter of Surrealism.



War was declared between America and Germany on 7 December 1941. Horst was called up for service, though he was not officially enrolled until July 1943. The late 1930s and early 1940s were his most productive years, during which he excelled at working with 10-x-8 inch colour transparencies both for covers and for portrait and fashion sittings...


As a typical example of wartime escapism, the Rita Hayworth film Cover Girl (1944) provided Horst with the opportunity to produce one of his most sumptuous film-star covers in a montage of seven different portraits of the cover girl Susann Shaw set against a silk design. His picture of Loretta Young became an almost immediate classic when it was featured in a special edition of Vogue which included masterpieces of photography selected by (classic photographer Edward) Steichen to show off the first hundred years of the medium.







This is one of Coco Chanel's favorite photographs of herself. I can't blame her. She looks stunning and elegant. Look at that necklace!

The 1960s started well for American Vogue with the appointment of the larger than life 'Empress of Fashion', Diana Vreeland, as Editor-in-Chief. Vreeland served from 1961 until 1971, when a change of approach was deemed necessary. Horst was assigned some of the leading players of the time and produced a number of archetypal images of this energetic decade.

The 1970s remains the decade that good, timeless style overlooked, and work for Horst was necessarily sparse... However, Horst's rediscovery by a new group of 1980's style-seeking enthusiasts resulted in increasing commissions...

Horst was commissioned to take nine photographs which appeared in February 1980. This was the most popular issue of Life in that year, selling 1.5 million copies. It led to a book contract and continued work with (editor James) Watters, whose encyclopedic knowledge of early Hollywood stars made him the ideal interviewer as the two men travelled round America to produce their best-selling book Return Engagement: Faces to Remember - Then and Now (1984).

Horst's career can be said to have reached Old Master status when the world's most famous pop goddess, Madonna, created her celebrated hymn to classic fashion photography with her single Vogue in 1990. In the video directed by David Fincher, she posed as a recreation of Horst's most iconic fashion image, a model seen from behind, wearing a partially tied, back-laced corset made by Detolle.


In his approach to portraiture, Horst set out to create a parallel aspirational universe in which his subjects became mysterious and alluring. Bruce Weber, one of many photographers influenced by Horst, artfully described his feelings about Horst's work in a 1992 television documentary: 'The elegance of his photographs ... took you to another place, very beautifully ... the untouchable quality of the people is really interesting as it gives you something of a distance ... it's like seeing somebody from another world ... and you wonder who that person is and you really want to know that person and really want to fall in love with that person".
~~~
What a talent. Oh, to be photographed by this master. He was quite racy for his time. I need to get my hot little hands on one of his books and the 1980's Life magazine. What do you think of his dramatic work and his use of contrast with extreme black and white? How would you describe it?
xo,
Christina


-- excerpted from Terrence Pepper's essay "Always in Vogue" from the book Horst Portraits, 60 Years of Style. National Portrait Gallery, London, 2001

20 comments:

Ash Fox said...

that first shot is sooo beautiful. i am always sure to find something glam here.

sinnlighet said...

Visa romanisering
What incredible posts and soo interesting reading!

Agneta, Your Swedish friend

Chic 'n Cheap Living said...

Gorgeous, understated sensuality and a celebration of femininity!

DolceDreams said...

What an incredible post on one of my favourite photographers! Back in the day when I was a makeup artist I got so much inspiration from his work (and still do!).
Have a fabulous week....
p.s. love your photo a droite! You look great...
Nathalie

Kristin said...

Now that's classic glamour if I've ever seen it!

Louise said...

V interesting post, thanks

Scientific Housewife said...

Beautiful photos!

janettaylor said...

My fave is the first one!

Karyn Bernard (French Charming) said...

Hi Christina,

These are amazing images from a spectacular photographer...true art and he beautifully hightlights the feminine qualities of women without being raunchy.

Hope you're having a fabulous week sweet friend!

Love and hugs,
Karyn

BonjourRomance said...

Great post Christina,
Such lovely photographs and all those gorgeous clothes. You give Miss Rogers a serious run for her money in that satin number!

Girley said...

Loving the icons, great post! :)

Slices of Beauty... said...

Beautifully talented!
Loving Coco's too, legendanry.

Inspiration in Italy said...

I just discovered your blog and I love it! I'm now following :)

xoxo
Rachel

Rachel said...

Such beautiful and famous photos - thanks for gathering them all together in one place!

Couture Millinery Atelier. said...

What a wonderful post, Christina! Your writing and photo selection is simply beyond perfect! I have proudly displayed your beautiful Award to me with many thanks on my Blog (just scroll a bit down a page):-). Wishing you the most beautiful January weekend!:-)

Couture Carrie said...

Such exquisite photos!
Love the corset one most!

xoxox,
CC

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Cafe Fashionista said...

Old Hollywood Glamour. That is the only term I can think of to describe such stunning photographs. Loving this post!! :)

Laura Connell said...

What a fabulous post. So important to remember the past when fashion is often too tied up in what's next.

Betsy said...

I love the photo of Coco. Oh what I would give to be photographed by this master. Hope you are well.

Love, Betsy.