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Horst: Photographer of Style

When German-born photographer Horst P. Horst joined Vogue in 1931, Paris was the undisputed centre of high fashion. Photography had begun to eclipse graphic illustration in fashion magazines and publisher Conde Montrose Nast devoted large sums of money to improving the quality of image reproduction.

Horst’s career straddled the opulence of pre-war Parisian haute couture and the rise of the ready-to-wear in post-war New York and his style developed from lavish studio set-ups to a more austere approach in the latter half of the 20th century.

Examples of these can be viewed in an exhibition of his work, Horst: Photographer of Style, now showing at the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum, London.

Horst (1906-1999) was a master of light, composition and atmospheric illusion, who conjured a world of sensual sophistication, says exhibition curator Susanna Brown, curator of photographs at the V&A.

During his illustrious 60-year career Horst worked predominantly in Paris and New York with leading couturiers including Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli, star Marlene Dietrich and artist Salvador Dali.

Highlights of the exhibition include photographs recently donated to the V&A by Gert Elfering, art collector and owner of the Horst Estate, previously unpublished vintage prints.

Horst was admired for his dramatic lighting and became one of the first photographers to perfect the new colour techniques of the 1930s. He went on to create more than 90 Vogue covers and countless pages of vivid colour.

Dinner suit and headdress by Schiaparelli, 1947. (c) Conde Nast/Horst Estate

Dinner suit and headdress by Schiaparelli, 1947. (c) Conde Nast/Horst Estate.

Summer Fashions, American Vogue cover, 15 May 1941. (c) Conde Nast/Horst Estate

Summer Fashions, American Vogue cover, 15 May 1941. (c) Conde Nast/Horst Estate.

Salvador Dali's costumes for Leonid Massine's ballet Bacchanale, 1939. (c) Conde Nast/Horst Estate.

Salvador Dali’s costumes for Leonid Massine’s ballet Bacchanale, 1939. (c) Conde Nast/Horst Estate.

Muriel Maxwell, American Vogue cover, 1 July 1939. (c) Conde Nast/Horst Estate.

Muriel Maxwell, American Vogue cover, 1 July 1939. (c) Conde Nast/Horst Estate.

Dress by Hattie Carnegie, 1939. (c) Conde Nast/Horst Estate.

Dress by Hattie Carnegie, 1939. (c) Conde Nast/Horst Estate.

Photo credit for lead image: Horst directing fashion shoot with Lisa Fonssagrives, 1949. Photo by Roy Stevens/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

Horst: Photographer of Style is showing at the V&A until January 4, 2015.

Jean Paul Gaultier – the challenger

Thrillingly real best describes exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk now showing at Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).

The mannequins eyes literally follow you about the room. They blink and stare directly at you before averting their gaze. At times emotions befitting of the garment they’re wearing cross their beautiful features or they’ll suddenly speak to you. It’s all a little disconcerting as well as thrillingly fabulous. As you move through the exhibition you can’t help casting an eye behind you to ensure they have not stepped off the platform to follow you.

The effect is made possible thanks to high-definition audio-visual projections. Combine these visual effects with Gaultier’s incredible designs and it is spectacular. Fans of fashion will revel in its splendour so set aside several hours to enjoy it.

NGV director Tony Ellwood sums it up. “Jean Paul Gaultier’s radical designs break down sterotypes and cliches, questioning pre-conceived standards of beauty and challenging societal, gender and aesthetic ‘norms’. The results are exquisite works of art; exuberant, witting, surprising and dramatic.”

The Boudoir is one of seven thematic sections in the exhibition which focuses on Gaultier’s fascination with lingerie and corsetry through the years, from his first cone bra designed for his childhood teddybear in the early 1960s through to conical bras and corsets made for Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition world tour. Here Dita Von Teese models a dress from his ready-to-wear spring/summer 1983 collection, photographed by Perou.

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Muses is another enthralling section. It shows how the couturier created a new ideal of beauty, beyond the established codes of fashion and society, celebrating difference by erasing all boundaries of body size, skin colour, age, religion and sexuality.

The Melbourne exhibition also includes an Australian Muses section, highlighting his relationship with Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Andrej Pejic and Gemma Ward.

Romantic gowns also abound with many from his Les Vierges (Virgins) collection featured including this Apparitions dress from his haute couture spring/summer 2007 collection (pictured below); as well as Punk Cancan which blends Parisian classicism with London Punk.

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The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk exhibition is on at the NGV, 80 St Kilda Road, Melbourne until 8 February 2015.

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