In 1923, Edward Steichen was offered one of the most prestigious and lucrative positions in photography – that of chief photographer for Condé Nast’s influential magazines Vogue and Vanity Fair. For the next fifteen years, Steichen would take full advantage of the resources and prestige conferred by the magazines to produce an oeuvre of unequalled brilliance, putting his exceptional talents to work glamorizing contemporary culture and its achievers in politics, literature, journalism, dance, theatre and, above all, the world of high fashion. This innovative exhibition celebrates Steichen’s remarkable achievement.Chanel, Lanvin, Lelong, Patou, Schiaparelli and a host of other designers saw their clothing depicted creatively by Steichen on the pages of Vogue. In doing so, Steichen created a wholly new approach to fashion photography. His crisp, detailed, high-key style revolutionized the practice and is a strong wind felt to this day — Horst, Richard Avedon and Bruce Weber are only a few of his most illustrious descendants.
Meanwhile, Steichen was innovating in the field of portraiture for Vanity Fair. The full list of Steichen’s sitters is astounding for its range. Among the more than one thousand subjects were the filmmakers Cecil B. De Mille and Josef von Sternberg; the actors Gary Cooper and W.C. Fields; the actresses Gloria Swanson and Marlene Dietrich; the writers W.B. Yeats and Colette; the dancers Martha Graham and Fred Astaire; the musicians Vladimir Horowitz and George Gershwin.
This exhibition features an equally balanced mix of Steichen’s pioneering modernist fashion photography and glamour portraiture. The original vintage prints have been selected from the Condé Nast archive, to be shared with the public for the first time since the 1930s. These prints are complemented by a selection of rare copies of Vogue and Vanity Fair showing how the photographs actually appeared on the page.