Often known simply as Huene, George Hoyningen-Huene worked primarily in Paris, New York and Hollywood and first gained international fame in the fields of sophisticated fashion and portrait photography. His carefully-lit studio compositions infused with elements of modernism, neoclassicism and surrealism made Huene one of the leading photographers at Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines from 1926 to 1935, and later at the rival magazine Harper’s Bazaar. Revered by his contemporaries, he also inspired subsequent generations of photographers and filmmakers around the world. In the words of Richard Avedon, Huene was “a genius, the master of us all”.
Paris was the most powerful hub of creativity in the arts in the 1920s and 1930s, and Huene became a principal chronicler within the intertwined worlds of art, fashion, design, film and high society. He Divers, Swimwear by A.J. Izod, 1930 befriended and collaborated with the stars of the artistic milieu, including Man Ray and Salvador Dalí. Huene worked with the top models of the time such as Lisa Fonssagrives and Toto Koopman. Two of his favourites were the German model Agneta Fischer and the American Lee Miller, both of whom later became photographers themselves. Huene saw every model as an individual, commenting “models are women and not alabaster personalities”. He brought grace and naturalness to his photoshoots of exclusive couture creations by designers such as Balenciaga, Chanel, Lanvin, Schiaparelli and Vionnet, and he became a specialist in chic studies of beachwear.
The film industry had fascinated Huene since his youth and he continued to photograph celebrities when he left Vogue for Harper’s Bazaar in 1935. Dozens of actors and performers sat for him and he approached each sitting anew, striving to record the unique characteristics of Hollywood idols including Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich and Anna May Wong in the 1930s, Rita Hayworth and Katharine Hepburn in the 1940s, Greta Garbo in the 1950s, and Ava Gardner in the 1960s. In many ways, Huene lived before his time. He championed strong, modern women and made no secret of being gay, often focussing his lens on idealised male figures. When Huene became restless in the confines of the studio, he embarked on a series of ambitious travels with his camera, resulting in five books: African Mirage, the Record of a Journey (1938, including his insightful diary text); Hellas (1943); Egypt (1943); Mexican Heritage (1946); and Baalbek/Palmyra (1946). Highly dedicated to his craft, Huene never viewed magazine photography as inferior to fine art and he advised his colleagues to produce pictures “with the idea that someday they’ll be included in a collection of the world’s great photographic art.”
Huene died in 1968 and, by bequeathing his life’s work to his close friend Horst P. Horst, he ensured that his archive would be carefully maintained. When Horst himself died in 1999, his adopted son became custodian. The task has been boldly taken on 20 years later by the art collectors Tommy and Åsa Rönngren.
Today the Rönngrens are cataloguing and digitising the diverse contents of the archive and developing projects to introduce Huene’s extraordinary talent to a new generation of photography enthusiasts. We are proud to present a special exhibition comprising rarely seen prints from the Archives, displayed alongside exquisite large platinum palladium prints. Several of the photographs are being publicly exhibited for the first time.
Allure: Platinum Prints
May 5 – June 18, 2022
49 Dorset Street, London W1U 7NF, UK