Though he was fast friends with
It is this sense of timeless elegance that permeates the V&A museum's retrospective, Horst: Photographer of Style, which opens on Saturday. Showcasing more than 250 photographs from a 60-year career, much of the exhibition focuses on the golden age of couture –
It was during this time that Horst began his career, photographing creations by Lanvin, Chanel and Schiaparelli for French Vogue. Horst was born in
His pictures show off the clothes perfectly: long trains of pleated chiffon are dreamy and translucent; sculptural cocktail suits throw sharp, dramatic shadows. Alongside these early photographs, nine couture creations from the V&A's archive are displayed on mannequins – the showstopper being an ankle-length Mainbocher black satin gown, from 1938, decorated in gold sequins.
The exhibition also provides a fascinating insight into the infancy of the modelling industry. A former student of architecture and design, Horst's models and muses were statuesque and strong, framed in the pictures by arches and pillars. More defiant and womanly than many of today's models, often they were initially friends, or acquaintances of magazine staff, and they were known to adore Horst. Though he was exacting, taking as long as two days to set up the lighting for one shot, Horst was known to be incredibly charming and kind – as demonstrated by adoring handwritten notes written by models, muses and friends and shown in the exhibition.
Horst's charm also won him friends in the wider creative world – the exhibition showcases collaborations with and portraits of luminaries from
Other fashion highlights from the show include a final brightly-lit gallery of colour photographs from Vogue, which pop and crackle with vitality. Horst's most famous photograph, the Mainbocher Corset, is displayed twice: the original picture, which features a dangerously loose corset, next to the tightly-bound, retouched version Vogue used, a reminder that photographic manipulation was alive and well before Photoshop.
For the main part, though, Horst operated in a very different world. "I feel such soothing blessings by your beautiful work," one of his models, and muses,
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