New York


Sonnabend Gallery

By contrast Horst’s portraits of the ’30s and ’40s are about glamour. And since glamour in art exists more often in galleries or artists’ lofts than in their objects or persons, I welcome it. If I have to choose between Renato Poggioli’s division in The Theory of the Avant Garde between the dandy or the bohemian, I’d choose the dandy. That’s why I find Horst’s photographs of people who’ve made glamour into an art form such fun. Although in the 50 photographs on exhibition, Horst ranges over the literary, artistic, and entertainment fields of the haute monde of ’30s and ’40s Paris and New York (including memorable shots of Gertrude Stein and Jean Cocteau) his photographs of women are most appealing. Highly stylized shots are suited to the magical posing of Chanel, Crawford, Dietrich, and Garbo—women the world knows best only through slight variations of body and posture recorded on celluloid.

I’ve always liked fashion photography for its narcissistic gloss as well as its second-hand and deodorized sexuality. So the photographs I enjoyed particularly were: Gertrude Lawrence as she turns sensuously with her dress stretched against her body, smiling back at the camera; Marlene Dietrich delightfully out-of-focus transformed in your imagination from particular to universal woman; Claire Booth Luce looking staggeringly sexy for a congresswoman; Coco Chanel marvelously framed against a baroque silk chair looking with out-of focus eyes into a romantic void; Loretta Young in classic Vogue romantic idealist pose; and perhaps my favorite, a jewellike, high gloss, very young Gloria Vanderbilt looking intelligently and elusively erotic, but also having the kind of allure only associated with the immensely rich.

––James Collins