Horst P. Horst, Round the Clock I, 1987

In the 1980s, Horst P. Horst’s early style was enjoying a renaissance. In 1978, French Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Francine Crescent, invited the artist to photograph the Paris collections in a style that echoed his atmospheric work of the 1930s. Horst’s reputation was thus secured for posterity through a series of new publications, exhibitions and television documentaries.

In 1988, the hosiery brand Round the Clock commissioned a controversial advertising campaign that saw women revealing slender legs clad in the latest hosiery – printed opposite the headline ‘panty hose for men’. An accompanying television commercial featured a man returning home from work to find the print advertisement in a mailed magazine, before removing his shoes and suspenders and reclining on the bed with the lights down. Viewers of both advertisements were riled enough to protest the ostensibly sexist campaign, masterminded by ad agency Romann & Tannenholz, but the polemic had already succeeded.

Round the Clock’s previously stagnant sales rose rapidly and brand awareness grew from 30 to 60 percent. Whilst Romann & Tannenholz’s research had revealed that how women looked to the opposite sex determined 85% of women’s hosiery purchases. Despite this, however, the sector continued to skirt the issue of sex, favouring the promotion of colour, style and fit. Gad Romann, chairman of Romann & Tannenholz, made no apologies for the bold campaign and is quoted as espousing the view that ‘there’s a difference between pornography and art; using Horst makes it art.’

Round the Clock, 1987 is endowed with fastidious precision and the enigmatic ambiance of a characteristic Horst image. The chiaroscuro befalling the legs from ankle to suspender compounds a sense of drama instantly recognisable to those familiar with the artist’s fashion archive – compiled across six decades. The photograph also references Surrealism in its composition, as the woman’s figure is severed by the image’s top border.

In the 1980s, during this second peak in his career, Horst produced new prints for museums and the collectors’ market, which were printed in platinum-palladium. Horst was a meticulous photographic technician, and these prints – of which the present work is one such example – are now prized for their nuanced tones, surface quality and enduring form.

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