Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, The Condé Nast Years 1923 - 1937 has its UK premiere at The Photographers’ Gallery this Autumn, presenting over 200 vintage prints, many on public display for the first time since the 1930s.
Brought together especially for this presentation, they mark the period when Steichen was working for Condé Nast on their two most prestigious publications: Vogue and Vanity Fair. The exhibition offers a rare opportunity, not just to witness a key period in history but also to gain insight into Steichen’s distinctive approach towards portraiture and fashion photography. First and foremost an independent art photographer, he was a major pioneer in the development of the medium and its status as an art form.
Steichen was already an internationally celebrated painter and photographer when in 1923 he was offered the lucrative and high-profile position as chief photographer at Condé Nast. During his period of employment there, Steichen was said to have been the best known and highest paid photographer in the world. For the next fifteen years, Steichen would take full advantage of the resources and prestige conferred by his role to produce an oeuvre of unequalled brilliance. His work defined the culture of his time, capturing iconic figures in politics, literature, journalism, dance, theatre and, above all, the world of haute-couture.
Universally regarded as the first ‘modern’ fashion photographer, he was in fact originally appointed to take portraits of the great and the good that graced the pages of Vanity Fair. Seeing the effect these images had on the readership, he was persuaded to turn his attention towards the fashion pages in Vogue.
The works in the exhibition convey Steichen’s forward thinking and ‘painterly’ techniques. He borrowed from a range of aesthetic movements including Impressionism, Art Nouveau and Symbolism to create a characteristic Art Deco style. Within his meticulous compositions, he treated his subjects as vehicles through which to explore shape, form, texture, light and shade.
In High Fashion presents photographs that depict designs from Chanel, Lanvin, Lelong, Patou, Schiaparelli amongst many others, alongside a series of portraits. These include luminaries such as Greta Garbo, Cecil B. De Mille, Winston Churchill, Marlene Dietrich, Josef von Sternberg, Frank Lloyd Wright, Amelia Earhart, the writers W.B. Yeats and Colette; the dancers Martha Graham and Fred Astaire and the musicians Vladimir Horowitz and George Gershwin.
Providing an Art Deco backdrop for the images is a series of three unique wallpapers that Steichen designed for Stehli Silks Corporation as part of their Americana Prints collection (1925 - 27). This collection featured specially commissioned patterns from noted artists and celebrities of the time. Steichen used abstract arrangements of matches, eyeglasses, jellybeans, rice, buttons and threads to create his designs. Also on display will be a selection of rare copies of Vogue and Vanity Fair presenting Steichen’s photographs in their original context.
Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, The Condé Nast Years 1923 - 1937 is curated by William A. Ewing, Todd Brandow and Nathalie Herschdorfer and produced by The Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis in collaboration with The Photographers’ Gallery. This exhibition has previously been shown in North America, Australia, Asia and Europe.
31 October 2014-18 January 2015
Opening times: Monday - Saturday, 10:00 - 18:00, Thursdays, 10:00 - 20:00,
Sunday 11:30 - 18:00
Exhibitions admission: £4.50 / £3.50 concessions, free entry Mondays – Fridays
10:00 - 12:00, free entry to under 16s
Address: 16-18 Ramillies Street, London W1F 7LW
Nearest London Underground Station: Oxford Circus
T: + 44 (0)20 7087 9300
Actress Mary Heberden, 1935 (Vogue, March 15, 1935) Courtesy of Condé Nast Archive, Condé Nast
Publications, Inc, New York/ Paul Hawryluk, Dawn
Lucas and Rachael Smalley
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