Horst P. Horst, Surrealism and the Avant-Garde

Horst P. Horst, born Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann, is most celebrated for his innovative and now iconic fashion photography. Working for both French and American Vogue throughout his career, Horst also excelled at portraiture, nude studies, interiors and still lifes. This portrait of the artist Salvador Dalí, taken in 1943, photographed close-up in the studio presents Dalí in his typical suit and tie.

Horst left his native Germany for Paris in the early 1930s and immersed himself in the world of the avant-garde artists and designers that lived there. The Surrealist movement was at its height in Paris at the time with Dalí at the centre of their creative circle. He is photographed here with his expressive eyes closed, caught in an introspective moment. Captured in this self-reflection the portrait references the importance of dreams and the unconsciousness as a theme of the Surrealist movement. This print of his friend and collaborator has an intimacy and softness to it which differs from the more elaborate and formal fashion photographs for which Horst established his reputation.

During the 1930s Surrealism expanded outside of its radical avant-garde roots and transformed design, fashion, advertising and film. Surrealism’s expansion also seeped into the photographs of Horst. Combining whimsical and surreal elements with his classical aesthetic Horst created tromp l’oeil still lifes and portraits, collaborating with Dalí and the designer Elsa Schiaparelli.

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