Horst: A Celebration of Photographic Style at V&A

by Cass Art

One of the 20th-century’s photographic style icons earns a well-deserved retrospective at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The six prolific decades of Horst Bohrmann - better known as Horst P. Horst - are being commemorated from through September until 5th January.

The German-US fashion photographer will be explored through some of his best-loved pictures. 

Horst (1906-99) mainly took his camera to the fashion houses of New York and Paris, but he was an instantly recognisable face in the fields of fashion, art, high society and theatre. His preliminary sketches behind several of his prints also won him fame and his sketchbooks are much sought after.

A regular contributor to Vogue magazine from 1931, Salvador Dali, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Gertrude Lawrence and Coco Chanel were among his models.

He became heavily associated with the haute couture and surrealism movements and started looking at the world through a different light in the 1930s, as surrealism combined with eroticism and interest in the female form.

Foremost among his prints from this epoch is his 1939 iconic picture, Mainbocher Corset. In 1990 Madonna drew inspiration from this picture for the video for smash-hit Vogue.

Mainbocher Corset, photography by Horst 

But the V&A’s celebration also delves into some of Horst’s lesser-known aspects of his work. These include travel photography and nude studies, in which he dabbled during the start of the 1950s. This era included an exhibition of male nudes in Paris.

Horst’s popularity gained huge momentum in the 1980s with a raft of fresh television documentaries, books and exhibitions focusing on his work. His deteriorating sight prompted his retirement in 1992.

Image Credits:

Image 1: 83-year-old Carmen Dell' Orefice, often cited as the world's oldest model, stands next to a portrait of her taken by Horst P Horst in 1947 when she was fifteen at the launch of the exhibition by the celebrated Vogue magazine fashion photographer. John Stillwell/PA Wire

Image 2: Mainbocher Corset, 1939, Horst P Horst © Conde Nast / Horst Estate

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