Vogue celebrates 100 years at the National Portrait Gallery
Few would deny that Vogue is the ultimate fashion magazine; its cutting edge photography and design has been much admired since the publication was launched in 1916. One hundred years on, the National Portrait Gallery is holding an exhibition to tell the incredible story of one of the most influential magazines in the world.
Six years in the making, Vogue 100: A Century of Style displays a range of photographic formats: moving image featuring Cara Delevingne; a wall-filling banner of the great Alexander McQueen; iconic black and white prints of Twiggy; beautiful hand-painted vintage cover illustrations; luminous light boxes. A maze of rooms holds each decade, with further space dedicated to every Vogue issue ever published. The result: a torrent of fashion, beauty and pioneering photography.
The exhibition notes that British Vogue has always sought to blend fashion with culture and the arts, including literature, paintings and politics. Historically, it was the Second World War that established the publication. “It was the making of the magazine,” says curator Robin Muir. “It was given extra paper, even under rationing, because it was considered very important for morale on the home front. And it had to stand alone and find its own identity”.
During this time, Cecil Beaton swapped society beauties for wartime reporting, Norman Parkinson began taking images of farm girls in government-approved austerity wear, and Lee Miller sent back astounding photographs from the frontline.
As we plummet through the ages, the magazine continues to mirror its times and put fashion in the context of the wider world: the optimism that followed the two world wars, the swinging sixties (which includes a fantastic series of black and white images of Jean Shrimpton and Grace Coddington by David Bailey), the radical seventies and image-conscious eighties.
Incidentally, all the iconic photographers are present: Patrick Demarchelier, Nick Knight, Mario Testino and Tim Walker, to name but a few.
We also note the introduction of celebrity culture in the nineties, when David Beckham and Posh Spice (as she was then known) were pictured by Juergen Teller, sprawled in a hotel corridor while cleaning staff watched awkwardly on. Meanwhile, Corinne Day’s breakthrough shoot of the “cocky” teenage Kate Moss – bare-faced and dressed in a sheer vest top and pants – also opened up a new direction for fashion photography.
Vogue 100: A Century of Style is filled with captivating images of the rich and beautiful, promoting an extravagant lifestyle that many of us can only aspire to. But, after all, Vogue is much more than selling clothes, it’s about selling dreams.
Vogue 100: A Century of Style is at the National Portrait Gallery from 11th February to 22nd May 2016, sponsored by Leon Max. For further information visit here.