Remembering Horst: Photographer of Style

In writing this article, Remembering Horst: Photographer of Style, I am reminded that I am and always have been an avid lover of fashion; from traditional haute couture to modern interpretations of demure femininity. The Victoria and Albert Museum has become a fashion mansion for fabulous and enticing exhibitions.

Horst “Photographer of Style” showcases the retrospective work of Horst, one of the 20th century master photographers.

Rembering Horst: Photographer of Style
Remembering Horst: Photographer of Style

Horst in 1984 stated that ‘fashion is an expression of the times. Elegance is something else again’. Horst captured the elegance and materialistic beauty of those who modelled fashionable gowns of the time. Horst’s style of photography comes from a passion to perfect what meets the eye. He was a master of light composition and atmospheric illusion, conjuring a world of sensual sophistication. The creation of a Horst photograph was a collaborative process, involving the talents of the art director, fashion editor, models and assistants. By the mid 1930’s, Horst had superseded his mentor George Hoyningen-Huene as Paris Vogue’s primary photographer.

Having joined Vogue Paris in 1931, Horst became part of the world’s undisputed fashion epicentre. Horst’s talents were noticed and photography began to eclipse graphic illustration in magazines. Conde Nast, one of the largest mass media publishing companies, devoted large sums to improve the quality of image production. Horst most admired Parisian models and made famous Russian beauty Lyla Zelensky as well as Ludmila Leonidovna known as ‘Lud’. The exhibition had so far proven that Horst was a well-established name in the industry and met Coco Chanel in July 1934 later photographing her in 1937 posing on a Louis XVI style chaise. The story surrounding the photograph is epic as Horst did not charge her for the prints; instead Chanel gave him some of her furniture as a token of her gratitude. Horst famously commented that Chanel is ‘without a doubt the centre of the circle, the star of the circus was Chanel’.

The exhibition was rather large, yet manageable to get through in an hour and half. Having gone with my sister, the first and last part of the exhibition was my favourite. The beginning of the exhibition showcased the pre-war Parisian haute couture culture with a range of original photographs and mannequins showcasing the fashion of Jeanne Lanvin and Chanel. Coco Chanel was one of the most innovative and influential designers of the 20th century and remains today.

The exhibition was split into sections of Horst’s career. The last section titled ‘Fashion in Colour’ left me in awe and jealousy. Between 1935 and 1963, Horst had created over 90 covers for Vogue. With technical advancements in colour photography and print, the exhibition showcased a large glass encased box containing original vintage Vogue covers across the decades. This section had large colour prints displayed on the walls of various models and celebrities Horst had captured for Vogue. Famously, in 1935 Horst photographed the Russian princess Nadejda Sherbatow in a red velveteen jacket.

Muriel Maxwell, American Vogue, 1939
Muriel Maxwell, American Vogue, 1939
Jean Patchett, bathing suit by Brigance, 1951
Jean Patchett, bathing suit by Brigance, 1951

We finished our tour of the exhibition by purchasing a few postcards of some of the famous Vogue covers. We intend to frame them and display them in our room.

Horst P Horst was born Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann on the 14th August 1906 and died on the 18th November 1999. Visit the website HORST to read more about this remarkable photographer of 20th Century Fashion as well as Artsy, who strive to make all of the world’s art accessible to anyone online. Their Horst P. Horst page, provides visitors with Horst’s bio, over 150 of his works, exclusive articles, as well as up-to-date Horst exhibition listings.