B. United Kingdom, 1904-1980
B. United Kingdom1904-1980
Cecil Beaton was an influential photographer, illustrator, costume and set designer. Beaton is known for his elaborately decorated and intricate backdrops, which often nod towards Surrealism. A prominent member of the ‘Bright Young Things’, Beaton photographed a generation of glitzy young aristocrats and socialites including Edith Sitwell and Stephen Tennant. Throughout the decade, though, Beaton’s most frequent sitters were his two sisters, Nancy and Barbara, known as ‘Baba’. The sisters proved useful props for the young photographer, as he experimented with backdrops, materials and photographic techniques.
As a fashion photographer, Beaton worked for Vogue in London, Paris, and New York. Throughout the 1930s, he shot Hollywood film stars for Vanity Fair, revealing an increasing reliance on close-ups of the face, often strongly modelled by contrasting light and shade, and also the increasing incorporation of floral motifs. Beaton’s aesthetic remained highly artful if not so brazenly artificial. After photographing Queen Elizabeth in Buckingham Palace in 1939, Beaton was invited to become the Royal photographer of choice. Finally, Beaton was appointed as an official photographer for the Ministry of Information in 1940. Beaton’s contributions as a stage designer to the films, Gigi (1958) and My Fair Lady (1964) gained him Oscars and made him a household name.
Cecil Beaton was born in London in 1904. He was awarded a CBE in 1956. His work has been presented in major exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery, London; the Museum of the City of New York, USA; and the Imperial War Museum, London.
Video: Cecil Beaton | Exhibition Walk Through
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