Horst: Photographer of Style
6 September 2014 – 4 January 2015
Portraits, haute couture garments, magazine spreads and film footage chart the illustrious career of the German fashion photographer.
Born in Germany in 1906, Horst P. Horst originally wanted to be an architect and moved to Paris in 1930 to study under Le Corbusier. While in the city he met Vogue photographer Baron George Hoyningen-Huene and became his assistant. Horst showed such talent that it was just a few months before he had his first picture published in the French edition of the magazine.
Beginning in the 1930s, the exhibition includes vintage photographs from the Paris Vogue archive which reveal Horst's early work in the studio. During this period he also captured photographic portraits of many of Hollywood's leading stars, from Rita Hayworth and Bette Davis to Vivien Leigh, Noël Coward, Ginger Rogers, and Marlene Dietrich, among others.
As his career progressed, Horst experimented with new methods and techniques. On display are a series of kaleidoscopic collages which he created by arranging photographs in repeat; his intention was that these could be used as designs for textiles, wallpaper, carpets, plastics and glass. There is also a series of 25 large colour photographs which have been newly printed from the Condé Nast Archive, and demonstrate his abilities as a colourist.
Horst incorporated an array of influences into his work; from ancient art to Bauhaus design and Surrealism. Sometimes these references were explicit – such as collaborative projects with Salvador Dalí and Jean-Michel Frank – while other times they can be seen in the style and composition of his work. One example is a series of male nudes Horst produced for an exhibition in Paris in which the models were posed and lit to accentuate their musculature, evoking the classical sculpture that he so admired.
As well as original contact sheets, sketches and cameras, the display includes examples of the couture garments shot by Horst and film footage showing him at work in the studio.
One highlight of the exhibition is a group of photographs recently donated to the V&A by Gert Elfering, art collector and owner of the Horst Estate. The collection features previously unpublished vintage prints and more than 90 Vogue covers by the photographer.
Also on display, a lesser-known assortment of pictures from Horst's trips to Israel, Iran, Syria, Italy and Morocco. Among them is the Persepolis Bull in which a vast sculpture head can be seen amidst the ruins of a once magnificent palace, and a series of images documenting the annual migration of the nomadic Qashqai clan.