Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cecil Beaton: High Society

There was a time when glamour was celebrated, beauty was venerated and high society was all in between. This was during the two World Wars when the definition of chic and style were in flux, but glamour was unquestioned. And whenever glamour was there, photographer and designer Cecil Beaton was there.

 He began his career as a costume designer although his passion for photography was already stirring in him ever since he got a Kodak camera when he was just a boy. Before long, he was given a staff position in British Vogue and he soon became a noted photographer, dividing his time between fashion shoots (such as the one with the ladies dressed in gowns designed by Charles James above) and portrait sessions (such as the rest of the images in this post).


Among Beaton's numerous subjects, The British Royal Family stands out above all others in terms of class and substance in the photographer's catalogue of works. The elegance and grace of Beaton's Royal sitters and their surroundings probably suited him very well, and in many photographs the extravagance of the setting juxtaposed against the quiet and dignified Royals made for a striking combination.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother was his favorite among the Royal Family, and it reflects in the numerous portraits of her in the photographer's collection. Some of these early photographs would later become the primary inspiration for American photographer Annie Leibovitz when she was commissioned to take Queen Elizabeth's portraits in 2007. The resulting portraits are clearly in homage to Beaton's work.


Coincidentally, an upcoming exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum will be devoted to Beaton's portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and several members of the Royal Family. There will be close to a hundred photographs that will be displayed to coincide with Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Outside the world of photography, Beaton was known for his talents in designing theatrical sets and costumes. His most notable triumph in this field came in 1956 when he was tasked to design the costumes for Lerner and Loewe's musical My Fair Lady. He would later on lend his hand in the film adaptation as well as the film musical Gigi and many others.


To learn more about Cecil Beaton and his photographs, check out the book Beaton: Portraits. Another good collection is Cecil Beaton: Photographs 1920-1970, although it's currently not available (as of this post). A new publication entitled Cecil Beaton: The New York Years will contain never before seen photographs from the 1930s to the 1960s.



41 comments:

Astronomy Pirate said...

Those are some classy pictures. Definitely a lot of skill there, I especially like the Audrey Hepburn one at the end.

Shutterbug said...

These photos are very classy! I like! :)

Daniel said...

Wow impressive set

The Angry Lurker said...

They are beautiful pictures of a bygone age, reminded me of the classic Hollywood era.

psychpost said...

first photo captures it all so well

VersionDouble said...

those dresses in the first photo are amazing!

Bonjour Tristesse said...

That first image is cool. Looks like a turn of the century high class brothel.

movie68 said...

Really like those first two, nice write-up.

Bart said...

high on drugs soceity... lol imagine that pic., do u think u can find it?

Triper said...

She is beautyfull!

D4 said...

I like it when they had their options aside from photography. They get into it because they really do love it, and it shows.

Fang said...

Jolly good classiness.

Rudolf said...

beautiful lady!

AllenTesch said...

Really beautiful. The first is my favorite.

Travie said...

The last one got me.

Banacek said...

Very classy. Although I bet they're just as depraved as the rest of us.

Alphabeta said...

Exquisite shots - costume designer/photographer link is no surprise.

BenF199105 said...

cool photos

Mailex said...

Awesome!

Jacob said...

is the first one a coloured black-white?

Azurikai said...

really liking the first one! kind of want to find a HR & good sized picture for a potential wallpaper

duffboi said...

I very much like the and last pictures. He's got skillz.

MRanthrope said...

Monroe and Hepburn alongside royalty. fitting.

-E- said...

is that a young prince philip? so dashing!

Jblogger said...

these are great

ChazWellington said...

definately captured the glamor

The Onion Gypsy said...

pic is amazing! look forward to more. +followed

3DS-Games said...

Gorgeous ladies ;)

msmariah said...

This is an amazingly beautiful picture. People were just more elegant. I don't know when the 'slobification' of America happened, but it did.

Necroticism said...

Oh God! the second is so sexy! and she's barely showing skin. Love it.

T. Roger Thomas said...

Great photos!

HiFi said...

High fashion man. I want to be a part of royalty after seeing these photos.

Sarahberry74 said...

These are great! Following!

tamezisclutch said...

The pictures and the dresses look so beautiful!

Devour said...

Wow very well taken pictures. I love them. +follow

Triper said...

You are doing good job with this pictures.

braumaman said...

This photo is near perfect. Love everything about it.

RedHeadRob said...

regal :D

Jaccstev said...

Impressive looking photos especially the first one!

Dale said...

Great photos and I really like the one of Marilyn of course and the one of the British Royal Family has such a cool dress, it reminds me a bit of a costume that would be in the Black Swan.

Dale :)

r.alsharif said...

Ohmygosh! These are beautiful! I'd love to have a picture like that (a)

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