Last Friday I already told you about the catalogue accompanying the exhibition Horst: Photographer of Style. On the very same day I finally had the chance to see the exhibition at NRW-Forum Düsseldorf, too. I’ve always been a big fan of Horst’s photography and now it’s even worth. 😉 The exhibition was originally shown and curated at the V&A museum in London. Düsseldorf will be its only stop in Germany and I highly recommend you to go there before it’s gone again.
Horst P. Horst was one of the most important and influential photographers of the 20th century. The exhibition presents more than 200 photographs, sketchbooks, private letters, cameras and more of the famous photographer. It’s a perfect overview of more than 60 years of his life and work. As the light is dimed down to not harm the old photos you kind of get sucked into the chronology of Horst’s life. You can follow him via his photographs and sketchbooks through his time in Paris from 1930-39 and his life in New York to where he immigrated in 1939 and lived until the end of his life.
He started to work for the famous architect Le Corbusier in Paris in 1930 and finally met George Hoyningen-Huene (chief photographer of the French Vogue) in 1932, who was responsible for Horst’s first engagement with the magazine. At those times photographs were still new in magazines. Before there were mainly fashion sketches in there. Knowing that, it was even more interesting to see all his sketchbooks in the exhibition. He literary invented his compositions with pen and paper before he made a shooting. You can also see a lot of contact sheets from his photographs. So even if you’re not interested in fashion this exhibition will tell you a lot about the history of photography and how it all worked long before digital cameras were invented.
The 1930ies in Paris must have been elegant times. Horst took iconic pictures of Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Marlene Dietrich and many more. He evolved his famous black and white style which made him the “Magician of light”. In his images you find the perfect mixture of fashion, art, architecture and photography. As one of the most important photographers of the 20th century his work is still of massive influence for today’s photography. He himself was highly influenced by the idea of Surrealism and friends with Salvador Dali all his life. He took tons of photos of the famous artist. Unfortunately there weren’t so many at the exhibition. But on the other hand they’re famous and the curators tried to show all of Horst’s work and included a lot of unknown photographs from the Vogue archive and from his personal heritage in the exhibition.
Next to all the great fashion photography you can also discover Horst’s interior and nature studies. He made the book Patters from Nature in 1946 when he already lived in the USA and it’s all about forms he found in natural objects like leaves or shellfish. It was very interesting to see how different his work was depending on what he focused on. I really love his interior shoots he did in expensive mansions which were owned by actors or famous artists such as Cy Twombly. They were published in Vogue and House and Garden at the times. The funny thing about them is that they remind me of a lot of stuff you can see on Instagram these days. His images are more old-fashioned but the idea and concept how to arrange objects is something he invented long before social media even came up. And if you take a closer look at them you can see the influence of artists like Dali who himself created impressive still live paintings.
At the end of the exhibition is the only room which is a classical white cube. It hosts all the images from the times when color photography became the thing. Horst shot more than 90 color cover images for Vogue which are all in there. Either represented by a photograph or by a copy of the magazine itself. Color images were a big thing at the 1950ies and 60ies because it was very expensive to print magazines in color. It seems unbelievable today but even when they did the covers in color there were still plenty of pages in black and white on the inside because it was much cheaper.
I really enjoyed my time in Düsseldorf. The exhibition is a true must-see for fashion and photography lovers and the catalogue is a great extension to it. You can even be a part of the exhibition yourself if you like. They have an Instagram screen in the hall where all pictures are shown which were tagged with the hashtag #HorstStyle. The three best pictures will win a catalogue by the way.
#exhibition | Horst: Photographer of Style
#museum | NRW-Forum
#until | May 22, 2016