“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary,” the great British photographer Cecil Beaton said and his archive is a testament to depth of his commitment to this belief. With a career that spans six decades, from the 1920s through the ‘70s, Beaton was an arbiter of style and poise who captured the soul in a series of remarkable portraits that make him one of the best to wield the camera. Each photograph is the perfect moment in time, created as a collaboration between subject and artist. With a collection of sitters than includes everyone from Elizabeth II to Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote to Mick Jagger, Lucian Freud to Pablo Picasso, a sitting with Beaton was legendary, as the artist became as celebrated as those he photographed.
Beaton Photographs by Mark Holborn (Abrams) is a sumptuous compendium of 275 color and black and white photographs, paying tribute to the master in large format. As Holborn observes in the editorial note, “You can lose yourself in the Beaton Studio Archive. Towards the end of his life Sotheby’s acquired from Beaton a hundred thousand photographs and negatives, together with his albums. Immersing yourself in this huge collection can change your view of this prolific figure. In many ways Beaton came to represent a dandified view of an Englishman: fond of his tailor—the trousers always cut a little too tight—but seemingly unblemished by ill fortune. Even on the battlefield he found views of exquisite abstraction. This persona was an invention. He was a virtuoso who, through his inherent sense of design, successfully disguised any sense of mid-century angst. Elegance, it appears, was his shield.”
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Photo: Pablo Picasso © The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s.