Horst P. Horst is a seminal modernist photographer of fashion and style. He was an arbiter of taste with an instinctive sense of elegance that became synonymous to his work. He was born in Weissenfels, Germany in 1906 and would prove himself to be a critical figure in the history of 20th century photography. He apprenticed with Le Corbusier in Paris where he learned how to architecturally construct a picture plane, and was later mentored by fashion photographer George Hoyningen-Huene, who further sharpened his artistic vision with a studied sense of sophistication. Horst began to shoot for French and British Vogue in 1932, and became known for his fashion images that uniquely and deftly captured the time while simultaneously innovating the genre. He had a classic understanding of volume and space, and his images set the standard for much of the fashion and still life photographs that came later.
In 1939, Horst made one of his most famous works, “Mainbocher Corset,” shot the night he fled Europe as the German army invaded France. This photograph, a silver gelatin print of the back of a woman wearing an unraveling corset, is representative of the fragility of beauty in the face of destruction. Its seduction and iconic status lie in the modeling of the subject and the drama of the lighting. When Horst moved to New York he struggled to find work until he was hired by American Vogue for whom he produced an extensive body of fashion work using large format color slides that transferred directly to the magazine’s pages.
Fast forwarding to the 1980s, there was an increased interest in Horst’s earlier career and he often produced new prints in the refined platinum-palladium process. This resulted in even more nuanced tones, and highlighted the potential for expression in the imagery. “Horst P. Horst: Classic Fashion” aims to look back on this influential figure in photography, whose career lasted over half a century and is remembered one of the greatest fashion photographers to ever live. With an eye for cultivated beauty, skillfully combining surrealism and modernism, Horst created immortal images that have graced over 90 covers of Vogue. The chiaroscuro effects within his photographs, produced with the use of dramatic lighting, and a carefully constructed composition, are key elements that define Horst’s imagery and are brilliantly represented within this unique survey of his work; an oeuvre that transcends both fashion and time.
Horst P. Horst
19 August 2017 – 18 September 2017