LONDON - In the 1930s and 1940s, a handful of creative visionaries working for such publications as Vogue and Vanity Fair catapulted fashion photography into the realm of fine art. One of these is the German-born Horst P Horst, who despite his place in the pantheon along with Richard Avedon and Irving Penn is only now receiving his first major retrospective.
Horst image of a model in a Hattie Carnegie dress, 1939 © Condé Nast.
Organized by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the long overdue Horst: Photographer of Style covers his extraordinary 60-year career from Vogue covers to portraits of Hollywood royalty like Marlene Dietrich. Thousands of prints from the Condé Nast archives document the evolution of Horst’s distinct approach to image making. He had a special knack for structure and composition – not surprising given that he studied architecture at the Bauhaus and worked briefly for Le Corbusier.
Horst P Horst, cover American Vogue, with Muriel Maxwell, 1939 © Condé Nast.
“He composed pictures with an architectural precision, distilling everything into formal elements,” says V&A assistant curator Anisa Hawes. And while his models often posed against carefully arranged, geometric backgrounds Horst also played with Surrealism, collaborating with maverick fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dalí.