Horst: Photographer of Style at the V&A
The Victoria and Albert Museum is proud to unveil its newest exhibition showcasing the photographs, Vogue covers, and sketchbook drawings of one Horst P. Horst (previously known as Paul Albert Bohrmann). Often called one of the leading photographers of the 20th century, this (surprisingly small) exhibition seeks to show a vast collection of work from a career that lasted six decades. Within that time his work explored and negotiated between the disciplines of fashion, fine art and theatre, as well as delving into the realms of the aristocracy, upper class and celebrity.
The rooms are filled with images that you have doubtless seen before including classic images of the stars: Ethel Waters, Muriel Maxwell and Marlene Dietrich etc. These images are extremely popular in books and on the internet, but the photographer often gets forgotten about, so it’s interesting seeing them all together, as tangible objects, as someone’s life’s work.
The surrealism section was particularly intriguing, not least because when you enter the show one of the first portraits you see is of Lee Miller. The stark contrast in light and tone within some his photos create an effect paralleling the collage/photomontage of the Dada movement (the precursor to the surrealists). Also, with that in mind, his Mainbocher Corset is reminiscent of Man Ray’s Le Violon d’Ingres, as both explore the form but with a surreal fixation on objecthood in one way or another. All this led me to hope that maybe Horst’s foray into Surrealism would be more than kooky for kooky’s sake, a hope made in vain (as per Horst’s collaboration with Dali).
The real highlight of the show is the Fashion in Colour section, displaying large posters of Horst’s various Vogue covers. This may be due in part to the majority of the exhibition being small grey prints, so it’s refreshing and awakening to see large colourful advertisements. Despite the former’s obvious beauty it gets a little monotonous after a while, especially within those cramped, poorly-lit rooms.
The sheer size of the scope of his practice should provide something for everyone. However it has to be said that those who would value this show the most would be those with an affinity for forties/fifties glamour, or those suffering from a Midnight in Paris faux-nostalgia.
Horst: Photographer of Style is on at the Victoria & Albert Museum from 6th September 2014 until 4th January 2015, for further information visit here.