Posts Tagged ‘Vogue’

Photography | Arthur Elgort’s Big Picture Show

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Linda Evangelista, Dominica, 1990.

AE: ‘Linda was a great model. She did whatever it took to get the job done.’



Arthur Elgort
The Big Picture
Galleria Carla Sozzani
Milan | Italy
6th February > 6th April



In her book Grace, A Memoir (Chatto & Windus, 2012), Grace Coddington, creative director of American Vogue since 1986, described how for his first job for her at British Vogue in 1971, photographer Arthur Elgort sent a group of girls and boys, dressed in the designer Kenzo’s startlingly bright clothes, running through Paris’s Jardin des Tuileries. It was the point at which Elgort’s own career would take off. ‘His pioneering spirit has led us up the snowy mountains of North America, across rivers in China, through India on elephant back, on safari with big game, and home on the range with gangs of cowboys,’ Coddington wrote in her introduction to the monograph, Arthur Elgort: The Big Picture (Steidl 2014).

Elgort would quickly became established as one of the best known and most emulated photographers. With freely moving models, natural light, and a reportage approach, he was a breath of fresh air in fashion photography. His young, pretty models wore less make-up and were casual and lively in front of the camera, moving about freely in outdoor locations. The risks he took with his pictures changed the industry.



Pigeon coop, Brooklyn, New York, 1997

AE: ‘I’ve always liked the immediacy of photography. Either you get the shot or you don’t… Have some fun, and move on to the next subject with no fuss…’



Apollonia, British Vogue, 1971

AE: ’When my career was just beginning I noticed that most of the magazines had plenty of studio photographers – All I saw were models standing still. So I decided to do something else… I took my models out on the streets of New York, Paris, or wherever I was…’



Charlotte Rampling, Paris, 1984

AE: ’I have always liked a girl that was comfortable in front of the camera,
whether she was jumping or posing, smiling or frowning, sitting on a couch or on an elephant in Nepal…’



Kate Moss in Nepal, British Vogue, 1993

AE: ’When I first saw Kate I thought, ‘She’s not very tall and doesn’t seem that special.’ But it didn’t matter. She is incredibly photogenic. Every picture was perfect – she just did it so naturally.’



Azzedine Alaïa and Naomi Campbell, 1987

AE: ’Some of my best pictures were taken when I wasn’t ‘working’ – models getting ready, people on the street, the little moments in between shots… It’s those real moments that can’t be faked.’



Arthur Elgort: The Big Picture at Galleria Carla Sozzani encompasses five decades of Arthur Elgort’s photographic work on French, Italian, British, and American Vogue – magazines for which he continues to work today – as well as about 80 of his personal pictures. He has shot important advertising campaigns for prestigious fashion houses including Chanel, Valentino, and Yves Saint Laurent. His work is exhibited in the permanent collections of the International Center of Photography in New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and in the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas. Elgort has also directed two films, Texas Tenor: The Illinois Jacquet Story (1992), and the documentary Colorado Cowboy (1993), which won the award for Best Cinematography at the Sundance Film Festival in 1994. In 2011 Elgort received the Board of Directors’ Special Tribute Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

All images courtesy Galleria Carla Sozzani, © Arthur Elgort.
All quotes by the photographer from the monograph Arthur Elgort: The Big Picture, Steidl 2014



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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due must be borne by the source supplier



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Illustration | Drawing Fashion Forward

Friday, December 19th, 2014

At Home, 1967
Published in The New York Times Magazine

Mixed media
© Courtesy of Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos
and Galerie Bartsch & Chariau



Drawing Fashion.
Masterpieces of a Century
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Hamburg | Germany
19th December 2014 > 3 May 2015



I own a copy of Paris Vogue’s ‘Homáge a Paris’ June / July 1985 issue, the cover illustrated with a painting of a bare-shouldered, three-quarter length female model against a minimal evening backdrop of the city, unmistakable because of the small, blurred, floodlit silhouette of the The Arc de Triomphe in the distance, placing her, unmistakably on the sophisticated and romantic Champs-Élysées. Hands, clenched below her chin, she wears long black gloves, with diamond earrings and a diamond necklace. Her black hair is piled high on top of her head. Her black-mascara’d eyes closed in ecstasy, her full red-lipped mouth with even white teeth smiles wide with sheer delight. The perfect picture of Parisian glamour – a huge gold ribbon cinches the waist of her spangled black dress, and, extending off both sides of the cover, binds her image to the magazine. The message is unmistakable. The artist who created it was René Gruau (1909 > 2004).

Georges Lepape
Untitled, 1915
Published on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar

Watercolour and gouache
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014



Mats Gustafson
Kopfbedeckung, 2005
Fashion from Comme des Garçons

Watercolour
© Mats Gustafson / Art + Commerce



Réne Gruau
Untitled, 1955
Fashion from Dior
Published in International Textiles

Brushed ink and gouache
© Nachlass Réne Gruau



Gruau, whose heyday was in the 1940s and 50s was one of the main attractions in the enormously successful, Drawing Fashion: 100 years of fashion illustrated exhibition in 2010 at London’s Design Museum. From today, and deservedly so, re-jigged and rearranged to suit the new venue, the same material is getting a fresh outing under the title Drawing Fashion. Masterpieces of a Century at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. The new exhibition celebrates the genre as represented in 165 images, covering the whole of the 20th century period, with a few examples from the 21st, from the unique collection of original artworks of renowned Munich art dealer Joelle Chariau.

Split into seven sections – the first two representing a particular style or epoch – the extravagant art deco of the 1910s and twenties is followed by the more dignified fashions of the thirties and forties. Each subsequent decade is represented by its outstanding illustrators – the fifties by René Gruau (1909 > 2004), the sixties to eighties by the remarkable, prolific and highly-influential New Yorker, and close associate of Karl Lagerfeld, Antonio (Antonio Lopez, 1943 > 1987), who worked in Paris from 1969 to the mid 70s. Then come those who are still working today like, sensitive master of the watercolour wash, the Swede, Mats Gustafson (b 1951), the Swiss, François Berthoud (b 1961), of whom Anna Piaggi Vogue Italia fashion contributor and style icon – wrote: ‘While François illustrates fashion in an apparently formal and decorative way, in reality he analyses his subject in depth and with an elegant sense of detachment before recreating it in his atelier-laboratory…. with a sharp sense of irony and a visual culture rooted in conceptual art!’ This section also includes Parisian Aurore de La Morinerie (b 1962), who spent two years studying the Chinese calligraphy that was to become a formative influence on her style.

François Berthoud
Girl in a room
, 1996
Fashion from Jil Sander, published in Interview Review

Monotype and oil
© François Berthoud



The Fashion Illustration Gallery (Paris) website has examples of work by most, but not all of the big names from the 20th and 21st centuries. Their list is dived into two alphabetically-ordered groups – the younger illustrators, followed by the more mature or no longer living, or so it appears – which puts flavour of the moment, David Downton, whose slick, nostalgic style pays tribute to those who went before him – such as Gruau – right at the top. It’s interesting to see, however, some young people like Daisy De Villeneuve, with her own inimitable, primitive style, pushing the genre in a very personal and alternative direction. Former fashion designer, Richard Haines‘ matter-of-fact, laid-back watercolour sketches come close to caricature. Award-winning, Japanese fashion illustrator Hiroshi Tanabe, who quickly became established after leaving college in 1990, has an assured graphic hand that produces reduced, often minimal images with a whiff of the 1970s about them, which are at the same time bang up to date.



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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Photography | Guy Bourdin: Red or Dead

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Charles Jourdan advertising campaign, spring 1976



Guy Bourdin: Image-Maker
Somerset House
London | UK
27th November 2014 > 15th March 2015



Charles Jourdan advertising campaign, autumn 1977



The Pentax calendar, 1980



Vogue Paris, May 1970



Charles Jourdan advertising campaign, autumn 1979



The photographer Guy Bourdin (1928 > 1991), whose favourite colour was blood red, needs no introduction, and his uncompromising pictures tell their own stories. Good news for us, because we are on holiday this week and don’t have time to write one of our usual in-depth previews/reviews. Don’t miss Guy Bourdin: Image-Maker at Somerset House!

All images by Guy Bourdain © The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2014
Courtesy Somerset House



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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Books | Horst, Photographer of Nature

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Photographic pattern, (unidentified)



Horst: Patterns from Nature
By Martin Barnes
Merrell Publishing
Hardback + jacket
104 pages
50 duotone illustrations



Its title deviating by only the replacement of an apostrophe and an s with a colon, a new publication Horst: Patterns from Nature focusses in on a little-know series of photographs, nine of which appeared in the final pages of the 1946 book, Horst’s Patterns from Nature, augmenting them with a large number of mainly previously unpublished works made around the same time. The book is an expanded version of an essay by distinguished author Martin Barnes that appears in the main catalogue for the current exhibition, Horst, Photographer of Style at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, edited by Susanna Brown, and as such complements the exhibition, while considerably widening our knowledge of the photographer, his methods, and the breadth of his oeuvre.

Photographic pattern, (Calladium)



Photographic pattern, (Xanthosoma Lindenii)



Barnes’ short introduction, succinctly places the esteemed German-born photographer, the former Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann (1906 >1999) – who later took the name Horst P Horst – into historical context. He provides us with an insight into how, starting out as an architectural draughtsman in Le Corbusier’s Paris office in 1930, taught photography by his lover, the great George Hoyningen-Huhené, Horst rose quickly to recognition and fame, becoming friends with Marlene Dietrich, Nöel Coward and Coco Chanel. Barnes describes how, Horst fled German conscription and was spirited away by Vogue to America, becoming a US citizen in 1943. Best known for his slick studio-lit fashion and beauty images – the sexy Mainbocher Corset (1939) perhaps the most well-known – there is evidence to suggest, Barnes explains, that Horst embraced natural light and organic forms towards the end of World War II, as a way of associating himself with such untainted pre-war German cultural figures such as Johan Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 > 1832). Goethe’s definition of art: ‘Art is Nature seen through a temperament,’ is quoted by Alexander Lieberman, a Horst collaborator and art director of American Vogue from 1943 to 1962, in his blurb on the back flap of the dust jacket of the 1946 Patterns book. The front of this jacket is shown inside the new book, as well as a number of the double page spreads that appeared in it. For comparison, examples of work as they appears in books by other revered, early to mid-twentieth century photographers of nature are included, notably by Edward Weston, Paul Strand and German teacher and photographer, Karl Blossfeldt (1864 > 1932), who Horst acknowledged as an important influence.

Via repetition and mirroring techniques, and some influence from surrealism – Horst also collaborated with Salvador Dali – he pushed nature into the realms of semi-abstract pattern. Helpfully, by showing a succession of images – first the single original shot, then a group of four of these fitted together, the top ones a mirror image of those below, followed by a complete picture made up of sixteen images arranged on the same basic principles, Barnes demonstrates how the complete final images were made up. Some of these, in the run of plates, which make up over two thirds of the book’s content, are very graphic, while others are much softer, prettier, almost dream-like. Somewhat reminiscent of the images one sees in a kaleidoscope, but in square rather than circular format, not all of them are constructed solely from close-up shots of plants. For some the photographer has stepped back, thus changing scale in order to include, for instance, large palms trees, or palm fronds together with architectural details, or sections of a wicker chair.

Photographic pattern, (Prunus Pennsylvania Bark)



Photographic pattern, (Palm Trees)



Horst’s Kodak negative album of 1946, fits into the palm of the hand, and is reproduced at actual size in the new book, along with one of the negatives and a representative selection of the contact prints it contains. Barnes discovered that the negatives used to make the original large prints are not the same as those chosen for the construction of the complex patterned images that became the subject of the new publication. Ever the modernist, despite his respect for classical influences, Horst said of these: ‘[They] are photographs shown in simple repeat. The resulting patterns are immediately applicable to industrial fields, such as textiles, wallpaper, carpets, plastics, glass, ceramics, china, leather, bookbinding and jewellery.’ He went on to explain that they were also a demonstration of how modern design can be achieved through modern means. It’s possible that some of them may indeed have made it to a production line somewhere, but, so far, Barnes has been unable to uncover any evidence of this having happened.

Horst: Patterns from Nature is the end-result of inspired and painstaking investigative research by Martin Barnes, who, as it happens, is also Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A. The images in this book are as surprising as they are beautiful. While the text in photography and art books can sometimes feel like unnecessary padding, here the writing is an integral and indispensable element of the package. Merrell Publishers are pretty choosy about what publishing projects they get involved in, and with obvious relish have gone to town on this slim volume’s production values, reproducing all of the images in exquisite quality duo-tone, spot-varnished on heavy matt coated paper.

All images from Horst: Patterns from Nature
All images © Conde Nast / Horst Estate



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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Fashion | Supermodel Portraits

Friday, July 4th, 2014

© Dominique Issermann, Kate Moss, Paris, 2004





Supermodels – Then and Now
CWC Gallery
Berlin | Germany
Until 6th September





On the Storm modelling agency’s website, British model Kate Moss’s simple description, height: 5ft 8in / 173cm, bust: 34B, waist: 26 in / 66.04 cm, hips: 35.5in / 90.17 cm, shoes: UK 6.5 / EUR 39.5, hair: blonde light, length: mid-length, eyes: hazel, belies the fact that this week a David Bailey portrait of the supermodel sold for £80,000 at a charity auction in London. Although, aged 16, she had begun modelling for The Face four years before, Moss was barely known when the cult of the supermodel was established in 1990, when Linda Evangelista infamously told US Vogue, ‘We have this expression, Christy (Turlington) and I, ‘We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.’ When Evangelista later quipped to People magazine ‘We don’t vogue, we are Vogue,’ it was pretty much the truth.





© Albert Watson, Christy Turlington, Egypt

© Bruno Bisang, Claudia Schiffer, Paris, 1997





One of the most accomplished models of all time, Evangelista remains the most featured model on the covers of Italian Vogue, was the muse of photographer Steven Meisel and of fashion designers Gianni Versace and Karl Lagerfeld. Strange then that among the generous selection of 24 press images available for Supermodels – Then and Now at Berlin’s CWC Gallery, there is not a single picture of her, an oversight which explains her absence here. Evangelista, however – who, as well as her work with Meisel, has been photographed by Richard Avedon, Gilles Bensimon, Gian Paolo Barbieri, Patrick Demarchelier, Arthur Elgort, Nick Knight, Sante D’Orazio, Norman Parkinson, Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, Paolo Roversi, Francesco Scavullo, Bruce Weber, and Ellen von Unwerth, to name but a few, many of whose images appear in this exhibition – is certainly present in the show itself.





© Brian Duffy, Jean Shrimpton





In the 1980s and early 1990s, Canadian Evangelista, together with Brit Naomi Campbell and American Christy Turlington comprised a triumvirate that was dubbed The Trinity. The trio, augumented by another American Cindy Crawford, with German model Tatjana Patitz, were photographed together by Peter Lindbergh for the cover of the January 1990 issue of British Vogue, and thereafter became known as The Supermodels. There had been big name models before, of course, pictures of whom contribute to the story behind the exhibition – Jean Shrimpton, Penelope Tree, Veruschka, Marie Helvin, Jerry Hall – but while their names may have added a certain cachet to the designers’ clothes they were photographed in, often by great photographers, only Hall crossed over successfully into runway modelling.  Nor did they – aside from perhaps, some years later, Twiggy, and again Hall, both via acting – become world famous personalities in their own right. The names of The Supermodels became as big as those of the biggest movie stars and they were just as big a target for the paparazzi and the gossip columns. Other would-be supermodels followed hot on the heels of the originals, but only Elle Macpherson and Claudia Schiffer achieved a similar level of fame and success.





© Albert Watson, Naomi Campbell, Palm Springs, 1989

© Herb Ritts, Laetitia Casta 2 (for Pirelli Calendar), Malibu, 1998





Paradoxically, Kate Moss, if anything an anti-supermodel at the start of her career, rose metiorically, reaching undreamed of heights in supermodeldom. Gracing 17 W covers, she was named as the magazine’s muse in 2003. She has been the model of choice for more than 30 covers (and counting) of British Vogue, and has modelled major advertising campaigns for almost every high end fashion house in the world. During the past 25 years she has been photographed by every great fashion photographer worth his salt. She has designed clothes for high street brand Topshop – her 2014 collection for the brand, inspired by her own wardrobe will be sold in 40 countries – and handbags for Longchamp, has fragrances named after her, and been the subject of sculpture by Marc Quinn. A model for the mutability of the supermodel, through portraits and nudes by Patrick Demarchelier, Dominique Issermann, Paolo Roversi, Ellen von Unwerth, and Albert Watson, Moss is given a special focus in the CWC exhibition.

Photographs courtesy the photographers and CWC Gallery



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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier




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Photography | Steichen & Chevallier

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Marlene Dietrich, Edward Steichen, 1931
Courtesy of The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Gift of Richard and Jackie Hollander in memory of Ellyn Hollander 2012.234
Steichen/Vanity Fair ©Condé Nast

Marlène Dietrich
, Anthony Armstrong Jones, London, c 1955
Signed with the dedication ‘J’ai toujours su que tu es le plus grand mais
depuis que j’ai envahi ton métier je suis à genoux, Marlènou’
Auction estimate €200-300




Collection Maurice Chevalier
Hôtel Drouot Richelieu – Salle 5
Paris, France
Exhibition: 7th & 8th December, 2013
Sale: 9th December, 2013

Edward Steichen in the 1920s and 1930s:
A Recent Acquisition

Witney Museum of American Art
New York City, USA
Exhibition: 6th December, 2013
– 23rd February, 2014

Two very different portraits (above) of the same woman, Marlène Dietrich – the first taken in 1931 by pioneering American photographer Edward Steichen (1879-1973) – the second about twenty-four years later, c 1955, by Anthony Armstrong Jones (later, Lord Snowdon) – feature in two very different events, the first starting at the end of this week, the other taking place at the beginning of next.


Paul Robeson as the Emperor Jones, Edward Steichen, 1933
Courtesy of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Gift of Richard and Jackie Hollander in memory of Ellyn Hollander 2012.234
Steichen/Vanity Fair ©Condé Nast


Steichen shot the beguiling and beautiful, young German-born actress/singer Dietrich, ten years into her career, exclusively for Vanity Fair magazine. It is one of approximately forty-five works, including celebrity portraits, of among others, Winston Churchill, Paul Robeson, Eugene O’Neill, and fashion photographs he created during his 1923 to 1937 stint as chief photographer for Condé Nast Publications Vanity Fair and Vogue. Together with photographs he shot for advertising campaigns, and a selection of images that illustrate Steichen’s obsession with flowers, they comprise The Witney’s exhibition Edward Steichen in the 1920s and 1930s: A Recent Acquisition.


Photographs above from top
Portrait of Maurice Chevalier, New York, Irving Penn, 1948
Auction estimate €3,000-5,000

Audrey Hepburn in religious costume
Dedicated ‘To Maurice and ‘Papa’ with love and great admiration, Audrey’
Auction estimate €150-200

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, 1946, Dorothy Welding
Signed ‘Wallis Windsor et Edward Duke of Windsor’
Auction estimate €100-150



The Snowdon picture is one of eight portraits of Dietrich, each signed with a variety of sometimes cryptic dedications, for example: ‘Pour Maurice, de sa viel(le) ami(e) Marlène’ – scrawled over a picture of her in rather masculine attire – that over the course of both their careers, she presented to French entertainer Maurice Chevalier (1888-1972). And these are just a small sample of the 547 items, including many more signed and dedicated celebrity photographs – from the likes of Charlie Chaplin, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, to Brigitte Bardot, and Elvis Presley – as well as signed and collectible books, keepsakes, his signature hats and canes, furniture, wines, rugs, pianos, and even Chevalier’s 1967 Mercedes Benz 250 S, that will go under the hammer at one of Paris’s premier auction houses, in the Collection Maurice Chevalier sale at Hôtel Drouot, on Monday.


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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Photography | Reutersward: Nudes & Landscapes

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Blaise Reutersward: Aktstudien und Deutsche Landschaften
(Nude studies and German Landscape)
Camera Work
Berlin, Germany
24th August – October 12th, 2013

Following in the wake of then deputy fashion director Kerstin Schneider, photographer Blaise Reutersward’s unruly shock of blond hair seemed to arrive in my office at German Elle in Munich, a millisecond before he did. It was the late 1990s and and most of the female staff were dressed head-to-toe in black (Tom Ford) Gucci or maybe Jil Sander, the younger ones in less expensive Strenesse, the editor, Renata Rosenthal in Issey Miyake – sometimes with scarily-weird green contact lenses. On the surface, Blaise, tanned, in bright blue and white checked shirt and jeans – I’m not sure what he wore on his feet, probably Converse – was a breath of fresh air, much like his photography, the naturalness of which cut a swathe through the rather stilted, heavily stylised stuff that was coming out of Paris and New York at the time. Reutersward’s models didn’t pose, they moved about under blue skies with puffy, whispy white clouds in them, wearing the clothes with ease, their hair catching the breeze. But, Reutersward himself, unsmiling, hiding beneath his hair, avoiding eye-contact, ostensibly coming in to discuss layout ideas for his photographs was deeply serious about his work and knew exactly how he wanted it to be presented.

Born in 1961, in Stockholm, Sweden, where he still lives and is based, in the one picture (2010) of him that resulted from an internet search, only sea and sky fill the background, although the tan remains, replaced by a stubble crop the long blond hair is gone, and he sports a black T-shirt – maybe a sop to fashion, or perhaps signifying the broody, mysterious side to the photographer that I had been aware of at our single meeting and which would later be revealed via his personal work.

Unable to compete with German Vogue for the best photographers, German Elle was and probably remains the poor relation, but, certainly during the period I was the magazine’s art director (1996-1999) – many of the photographers coming in via the fashion department, who were extremely picky about who they would work with – it provided a testing ground for talented new, not necessarily young – Blaise would have been around 35 years old at the time – photographers, keen for a chance to get published. Reutersward was one of those who impressed German Vogue and soon found himself regularly shooting for them, and throughout the past 15 or so years, for French Vogue as well as those in Japan and China. He may not have achieved the success or fame of giant of Swedish fashion photography, Mikael Jansson, but he has stuck to his guns, consistently producing sensitive, timeless images of female fashion and beauty, most often in a natural setting with a minimum of artificial lighting.

Typically understated, Reuterward’s website shows nothing other than a slideshow of a few dark photographs from Aktstudien und Deutsche Landschaften, his forthcoming exhibition of large format nude portraits and German landscapes at Berlin’s Camera Work. The landscapes new, the nudes produced over the past 10 years, he uses his great skill and unique eye for composition to create an intense dialogue between the objects of his obsession.

Photographs from top
Aktstudie 002
Grevgatan, Stockholm, Sweden

Deutsche Landschaft 1205
Ariel view of Sylt, Germany

Deutsche Landschaft 1207
Schönau am Königssee,
Berchtesgaden National Park,
Bavaria, Germany

Deutsche Landschaft 1206
Neinhäger Holz,
Mecklenburger Bucht, Germany

All images ©Blaise Reutersward
Courtesy Camera Work


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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Art | Meret Oppenheim

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

Meret Oppenheim Retrospective
Martin-Gropius-Bau
Berlin, Germany
16th August – 1st December, 2013

On a visit to Berlin this spring I went to the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum to see their tremendously well staged Kosmos Farbe exhibition, in which the two Swiss-born Bauhaus masters Johannes Itten and Paul Klee’s work was carefully arranged to allow for comparison and contrast. The same venue will host Meret Oppenheim: Retrospective, the first ever major retrospective of the Berlin-born (1913) artist, brought up in Switzerland.

Oppenheim studied in Basel, where she saw an exhibition of Bauhaus work that included some by Paul Klee that inspired her to produce a series of pen and ink drawings in a school notebook – her own first surrealist work – which proved to be the catalyst for her move to Paris in 1932 to attend the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Meeting André Breton gained her the entré she had sought to the surrealist circle, with whom she would exhibit her own work for the first time the following year; a year which would see Man Ray posing her nude with an etching press, in a famous series of photographs that includes Erotique voilée (1933, above).

Named after Meretlein, a wild child who lives in the woods in Gottfried Keller’s novel Der Grüne Heinrich (The Green Henry), Oppenheim was quickly adopted by the group whose members, including Alberto Giacometti, (Jean) Hans Arp, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia and Dora Maar, identified her as the perfect embodiment of the surrealist woman, the femme-enfant through whose youth, naivety and charm, they believed had direct access to the world of dreams and the unconscious. Produced decades later her self-portrait, Skull and Ornament (1964) – an x-ray image of her head in profile, complete with large, ringed earrings – might be interpreted as the artist allowing us a glimpse of this mythical inner persona.

Oppenheim returned to Basel in 1937, entering a period of personal and artistic crisis, during which she worked sporadically, destroyed much and even went back to art school. When she began working in earnest again in the 1950s, she produced works based mainly on earlier sketches. Her painting Schwarze Strich-Figur vor Gelb, (above), produced between 1960 and 1981, is a clear reference to her original inspiration, Paul Klee’s work.

Linking her firmly to her surrealist friends, her humorous treatments of everyday materials in odd combinations, often suggestive of metamorphosis, would become some of the distinctive features of her work. However, Oppenheim wasn’t in it just for laughs. She became well-known for her emancipatory, non-conformist attitude and her critical approach to gender stereotyping, making her a central role model for 20th century women artists. ‘Freedom isn’t given to you – you have to take it’, she said, summing up her stance in 1975. And, right up to her death in Basel in 1985, the artist’s work courted controversy. When the city of Bern, famous for its traditional fountains commissioned her to design her Tour-fontaine (in Waisenhausplatz), inaugurated in 1983, and produced when she was already entering her seventies, residents queued up to sign petitions demanding its removal.

Celebrated by the surrealists as ‘the fairy woman whom all men desire’, much of Meret Oppenheim’s better known pieces are loaded with latent erotic content, which might provide some explanation as to why, when I was at the tender age of 15, in 1970, perhaps unsure of whether he should be showing us it, our very bright and progressive art teacher, closed the door firmly and pulled down the window blinds – it was a winter evening and already dark outside – prior to projecting Oppenheim’s iconic Objet (1936), the fur cup, saucer and spoon, on to a wall, introducing our single sex class to surrealism. Art critic Robert Hughes called it ‘the most intense and abrupt image of lesbian sex in the history of art.’ Years later, when I was studying graphics at London’s Royal College of Art, in a clever and poignant reminder of Objet, my contemporary, the late John Hind – who began working at British Vogue before he’d even finished the course, and would within a few short years become the magazine’s art director – in homage to the artist, made a fur purse as a container for a lipstick, the bright red tip provocatively poking out.

Images from top
Man Ray photograph f
rom the series Erotique voilée  mit handschriftlich
markierten Ausschnitten des Künstlers
, 1933
Galerie 1900–2000, Paris
©Man Ray Trust, Paris / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Meret Oppenheim, Pelzhandschuhe, 1936
Ursula Hauser Collection, Switzerland
Photo Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zürich
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Meret Oppenheim, Schwarze Strich-Figur vor Gelb, 1960–1981
Private collection, Bern
Photo Peter Lauri, Bern
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Margrit Baumann photograph,
M.O. mit Sechs Wolken auf einer Brücke, 1977, Bern 1982
©Photo Margrit Baumann
Archiv Christiane Meyer-Thoss, Frankfurt am Main

Meret Oppenheim, Eichhörnchen, 1969
Private collection, Montagnola
Photo Peter Lauri, Bern

©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013

Catalogue
Meret Oppenheim. Retrospective
Hatje Cantz Verlag
Editors: Heike Eipeldauer, Ingried Brugger, Gereon Sievernich
312 pages, 364 images
Museum edition €25


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The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Photography | Studio Erwin Blumenfeld

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Blumenfeld Studio: New York, 1941-1960
Somerset House
London, UK
23rd May – 1st September, 2013

Day and night I try, in my studio with its six two-thousand watt suns,
balancing between the extremes of the impossible, to shake loose the real from
the unreal, to give visions body, to penetrate into unknown transparencies.

Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969)

With around 100 colour photographs as well as archive material from fashion magazines, this show at Somerset House focuses on the work Erwin Blumenfeld – one of the most influential, innovative and sought-after fashion photographers of the 1940s and 1950s – produced at his studio in New York.

Born into a Jewish family in Berlin, Blumenfeld began taking photographs when he was just ten years old. His first job was as an apprentice dressmaker, but between 1916 and 1933 he produced dadist montages in Germany, where he was closely associated with George Grosz, before moving first to Holland, then to Paris in 1936, where he met Cecil Beaton, who got him an introduction to Vogue. However, as a result of his publishing bitingly mocking collages of Adolf Hitler, Blumenfeld spent the occupation years in a concentration camp, eventually fleeing Europe with his family for the United States in 1941. In New York he worked in the studio of Martin Munkacsi until his own career started to flourish. Taken up by Russian emigré art director Alexey Brodovitch, who was fostering  the development of an expressionistic, almost primal style of picture-making at Harper’s Bazaar, Blumenfeld continued to work for Vogue, gaining him a reputation as the highest paid freelance photographer in New York. He went on to produce advertising campaigns for top cosmetics clients such as Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden and L’Oreal.

Blumenfeld had a passion for the female form, which he expressed through headily erotic images in which mirrors, gauzy fabrics, screens, wet silk and elaborately contrived shadows and angles were used to enhance or discreetly mask the body. He became a master of complex studio photography and developed sophisticated techniques of solarisation and superimposition that, even today, continue to influence photographers. The renowned fashion photographer Sølve Sundsbø recently commented: ‘Blumenfeld was shooting 60 years ago what the rest of us will be shooting in 10 years time’.

Images from top
City Lights

Support for the Red Cross
American Vogue cover, March, 1945

Grace Kelly
Cosmopolitan, 1955

Spring Fashion
American Vogue, 1953

All images ©The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


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The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Photography | Freud by Cecil Beaton & David Dawson

Friday, July 13th, 2012

An Artist’s Life: Photographs of Lucian Freud by Cecil Beaton and David Dawson
Sotheby’s London, UK
Selling Exhibition: until 11th August, 2012

It’s probably fair to say that David Dawson’s photographing daily life at Lucian Freud’s studio, and beyond, had its genesis in Bruce Bernard’s photographs of the great British painter. Freud (1922-2011) and Bernard (1928-2000) had been friends since their teens. Curator  and author of fine art and photography books, including his great Phaidon tome Century, Bernard (to whom, incidentally, I owe a debt with regard to my picture editing education – he was picture editor at The Sunday Times Magazine for the first couple of years I was there) sat – or more accurately, stood, in 1992 and sat in 1996 for Freud, having previously had his unusually large head immortalised by the artist in Head of Bruce Bernard, 1985. In the 1990s, Freud, famed for shunning the limelight, uncharacteristically, allowed Bernard, who had been taking photographic portraits of fellow Soho drinkers, artists and luminaries including Francis Bacon and Euan Uglow, to begin photographing him at work in his studio.

Having studied painting at the Royal College of Art – where he was a contemporary of Tracey Emin and Jake and Dinos Chapman – Dawson (b.1960) became Freud’s studio assistant in 1991. It wasn’t until some years later that Dawson – Freud by now used to have a photographer in his studio – picked up his own camera and began to record the day-to-day comings and goings and the work processes happening in front of and around him. After Bruce Bernard’s death in 2000, with unprecedented and now, exclusive, access – Bernard, in any case, having only been a visitor – Dawson was able to capture intimate moments: Freud in deep concentration, Freud applying shaving cream to his face with one of his large brushes (which, although we used it across a double-page spread in Tatler – where I was creative director – I suspect was set up, possibly at the behest of my editor-in-chief, Geordie Greig, himself a regular visitor at Freud’s studio) and to produce images that allow us to see the development of some of Freud’s later paintings.

Freud at Work, Photographs by Bruce Bernard and David Dawson was shown at Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert in 2006. Earlier this year, the same gallery showed Lucian Freud: Studio Life, Photographs by David Dawson. More recently Dawson’s image of Freud painting the Queen was selected for the Whitechapel’s exhibition of works from the Government Art Collection. A selection of Dawson’s pictures of Freud were also shown at the National Portrait Gallery in 2004. Twenty six of these, including those showing the artist painting Hockney and Queen Elizabeth II, and Frank Auerbach visiting the studio, were acquired for the gallery’s collection.

The unlikely juxtaposition of Dawson and Beaton’s photographs in this summer’s selling exhibition of limited edition prints at Sotheby’s, as much as it is revealing about Freud, provides an insight into the characters, aspirations and appetites of both photographers. Dawson comes across as a little shy and somewhat reticent, whereas, by all accounts, Beaton, who produced a prodigious number of self-portraits, was just the opposite.

Sir Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) has a staggering 1,050 portraits in the NPG collection. His career as a portrait photographer took off after meeting the Sitwells in 1926. He signed his first contract with Vogue in 1927 and was associated with the magazine throughout his life. Beaton had been in Hollywood in the 1930s, where he became obsessed with Garbo, whom he continued to photograph throughout her life. He photographed Katherine Hepburn and later Marylin Monroe, of whom he wrote: ‘She romps, she squeals with delight, she leaps on the sofa. She puts a flower stem in her mouth, puffing on a daisy as though it were a cigarette. It is an artless, impromptu, high-spirited, infectiously gay performance. It will probably end in tears.’ During WWII he worked for the Ministry of Information and afterwards took on the additional role of stage designer for film, ballet and opera. In 1965 he was awarded two oscars for his stage production of My Fair Lady. His work has appeared in countless exhibitions and books, the first of which, Beaton by James Danziger – another former Sunday Times Magazine picture editor, now running the eponymous Danziger Projects in New York – was published in 1977, the same year that Sotheby’s acquired the photographer’s estate.

Beaton’s photographs of Freud from the 1950s capture him alone, with friends, with family and with his second wife Caroline Blackwood at Coombe Priory, their Dorset retreat. Although Beaton claimed to be drawn to Freud, whom he described as ‘a true artist and a true Bohemian’ – in some of Beaton’s pictures his subject wears no tie, or if he does it’s ratty and his shirt appears somewhat creased – the painter is portrayed as a clean-shaven, well-quaffed, heroic and brooding figure with movie-star good looks. While Dawson’s photographs are not about Dawson – he often lurks in the background, content to simply tag along behind his elderly master – Beaton had other ideas. While some of his images affect reportage, each one of them is a carefully-controlled portrait. One of these in particular, makes Freud look particularly stiff and awkward as he struggles to look at the camera, in front of the lens of which, Beaton, in one of his surrealist moments, seems to have flung a cyclamen flower and a few leaves – almost definitely montaged in later – that in the final image float above the sitter’s head. At first sight, what appears to be Beaton’s least set up, least theatrical picture of Lucien Freud’s daughter, Annie, 3rd October, 195o, in which she sits on another animal’s back while stroking the nose of a zebra, comes as a refreshing surprise; then one realises that the photographer is playing his usual, for me disappointingly tiresome, games; the zebra is obviously stuffed. Not everyone is as lively as Monroe was but oh, if only Beaton could have allowed a little of the extemporaneous excitement he had captured in his shoot with her to seep into his photographing Freud – as Dawson did so successfully with Kate Moss in Having a cuddle with Kate, 2010… Mind you, some of Dawson’s pictures are more record shot than fine photography: Breakfast at Clarke’s with Stella McCartney, 2008, is just a snap, as is his picture of Bono and Freud breakfasting together. His Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach at the V&A, 2006, however, has the ease and spontaneity of a Lartigue.

Images from top
David Dawson, Having a cuddle with Kate, 2010
Cecil Beaton, Coombe Priory, Dorset, 1956

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Look out for The Blog’s regular Friday posts on art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that interests me and I think might interest you

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