Six Reasons Why You Should Collect Horst P. Horst
‘Icon’ is a word often spoken among 20th-century fashion photography’s biggest names—like Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts, Irving Penn, and Horst P. Horst—and while it’s always fitting, whose work should you actually bring home? Here are six reasons why Horst’s work belongs in your collection:
1. Horst’s photographs are memorialized on over 150 covers of Vogue magazine:
Securing the cover of Vogue is a canonical moment in any photographer’s career. Since Horst’s credit line first appeared in the December issue of French Vogue in 1931, his allegiance with the magazine was secured (they’ve called him “photography’s alchemist” and included Horst among the ranks of masters like Edward Steichen and Cecil Beaton). In addition to over 150 covers, many of Horst’s most iconic images were shot on assignment for the magazine, like Lisa with Harp or the infamous Mainbocher Corset.
2. His photographs were made using the highly collectible technique, platinum printing. What does that mean?
Like Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, and Irving Penn, Horst chose to create platinum photographs—a favorite to both photographers and collectors alike—known for their broad range of tones, luminous matte surface, and permanence. Platinum prints have a significantly wider spectrum of tones than traditional silver prints, which gives them an almost three-dimensional quality and detail in even the darkest shadows and brightest highlights. They are extremely archival—platinum is one of the most stable metals—and a single print can last for thousands of years. Since the platinum emulsions were often hand-coated onto photographic paper, no two prints were exactly the same, and since the process has always been both expensive and larious, platinum printing is saved for the most prized images.
3. Horst captured many of the 20th century’s most iconic faces:
As Time magazine once printed, Horst “captured an era of European and American glamour on film.” Horst’s photographs immortalize the actors, models, artists, and socialites that defined his generation. His subjects include designer and lifelong friend Coco Chanel, Yves Saint-Laurent, President Harry Truman, actresses Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and Joan Crawford, artists Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí, and Cy Twombly, Jackie Kennedy, and not least, Lisa Fonssagrives, the world’s first supermodel and one of Horst’s favorite subjects.
4. His work belongs to prominent museum collections and has been the subject of major museum exhibitions, including the forthcoming exhibition at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum in 2014:
Horst’s work is in the collections of The Getty and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. In 1991, Horst was honored with a retrospective at the Louvre’s Musée des Arts de la Mode, and has exhibited at the International Center of Photography, the National Portrait Gallery in London, and in 2014, will be shown in “Horst: Photographer of Style” at the Victoria & Albert Museum, who call Horst “one of the 20th century’s master photographers and a revered figure in the world of fashion image making.”
5. Horst took one of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century:
Mainbocher Corset, the photograph Horst shot from behind of a model wearing an unraveling corset, is regarded as one of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century. The controversial image marked a change in fashion photography (in both style and content—it took three months for Condé Nast to agree to publish the semi-nude); a liberation in women’s dress; and, on the verge of World War II, was the last photograph Horst took in Paris before he fled the city. Horst is said to have reached “Old Master Status” when Mainbocher Corset was recreated in an homage by one of the the world’s biggest pop stars, Madonna, in her 1990 video, Vogue.
6. He studied under, and influenced, some of photography’s greatest names:
Horst was mentored by George Hoyningen-Heune (also a photographer for Vogue in Paris) and notably, apprenticed with Le Corbusier in Paris. Among a long list of artists who cite Horst as an influence (Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts, and his protégé Cathleen Naundorf) photographer William Wegman has said Horst’s images “are so deeply etched in my mind that I can’t imagine the world without them.”