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Edward Steichen,
Model Marion Morehouse and unidentified model wearing dresses by Vionnet, 1930

 
       
 

High Fashion in

Black and White 

   
 

Steichen@ICP

   

 

  

 

175 of Steichen's fashion photographs are on display in the beautiful Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, The Condé Nast Years 1923-1937 at ICP

Steichen (1879-1973) had a long and varied career - he started off as a painter and Pictorialist photographer.  Along the way, he founded the Photo-Secession group with Alfred Stieglitz and was instrumental in introducing European artists such as Matisse, Rodin, and Cézanne to New York at Stieglitz's Gallery 291.  Steichen was also director for Aerial Photography for the Allied Forces during World War I and towards the end of his career was Director of Photography at MoMA.

But it was in the years after World War I, when Steichen began to move away from his earlier Pictorialist style toward a more Modernist aesthetic as chief photographer for Vanity Fair and Vogue in the 20S and 30s, that he created his most brilliant and beautiful work.  Many of his fashion and advertising photographs taken for Vogue and Vanity Fair are portraits, and there is a strange, timeless beauty in their perfectly-constructed aestheticism - an architectural consciousness of line that is softened by a certain soulfulness of face or fluidity in line of fabric.  Steichen created a stunning fusion of fashion photograph and portrait - and his work in this area has never been quite matched by any of his successors.  The heightened style of these photographs is on display in the first ever comprehensive show of these iconic images. 

Steichen created high art in his fashion photography, allying the artistic and the commercial to elicit haunting beauty from both subject and clothes.  A photograph of Greta Garbo displays her signature cold, hard beauty but something new as well: a quixotic, almost self-reflective quality.  There is Joan Crawford in a dress by Schiaparelli or an unnamed model wearing Molyneux, or the fabulous Model Marion Morehouse and unidentified model wearing dresses by Vionnet, 1930, pictured above.  And then there is the marvelous Gloria Swanson, the actress turbaned and enigmatic behind a dark flower-patterned netted veil from which she stares out with animal intensity. 

 

See: Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, The Condé Nast Years 1923-1937 at ICP, through May 3, 2009 

 

 

 


Edward Steichen,
Gloria Swanson, 1924

       
 

 
       
     

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