Horst P Horst (1906 – 1999) was born in Germany but became an American citizen in 1943, changing his surname from Bohrmann to Horst.
During an extraordinary sixty-year career (1931 to 1991) Horst became a legend and ranks alongside Irving Penn and Richard Avedon as one of the pre-eminent fashion and portrait photographers of the 20th century.
Horst secured his first cover of Vogue in 1931, a pivotal moment in any photographer’s career and proceeded to have more than 150 covers of the magazine. His glamorous elegant images – masterly lit compositions – captured many of the 20th century’s most iconic faces: designers Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, President Harry Truman, actresses Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, artists Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, and Cy Twombly, Jackie Kennedy, and not least, Lisa Fonssagrives, the world’s first supermodel and one of Horst’s favorite subjects.*
The photographer’s, controversial picture “Mainbocher Corset” (1939) of a model seen from behind, wearing a partially tied, back-laced corset, is regarded as one of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century, and marked a change in fashion photography in both style and content. And, on the verge of World War II, was the last photograph Horst took in Paris before he fled the city. When almost 50 years later (1990), Madonna, the world’s most famous pop star, as an homage posing as a recreation of the same image in the video ‘Vogue”, Horst is said to have reached “Old Master Status”
In the early 1950s Horst produced a set of distinctive photographs of male nudes that were exhibited for the first time in Paris in 1953 and reprinted using the platinum-palladium process in the 1980s. Treasured for their nuanced tones, surface quality and permanence —platinum is one of the most stable metals – the expensive process was favored for the most prized images.
Horst’s photographs are in the collections of the Getty and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Louvre’s Musée des Arts de la Mode, honored him with a retrospective and he has exhibited at the International Center of Photography, the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Victoria and Albert’s. “Horst: Photographer of Style” on view to 4the of January. 2015.
Horst was mentored by George Hoyningen-Heune, who also was photographer for Vogue in Paris. Among the many artists who cite Horst as an influence are: Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts, Cathleen Naundorf. William Wegman.
* Partially sourced and excerpted from the web site of the Victoria and Albert Museum and Artsy.
© Horst / Conde Nast Collection. Courtesy Staley-Wise Gallery, New York