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Friday, July 15, 2011

Moments In Time

Ah Audrey. Forever captured as a Fair Lady. I remember looking at this photo, among others, with the Fashionista when she was studying Fashion Design. We wondered not only about the Oscar winning costume designer who created such beauty, but also who took this timelessly lovely portrait.

It turned out that the individuals in question were one and the same person. The uber talented Sir Cecil Beaton.

Sir Beaton recently came on my radar again when I was researching the British Royal Family. It would seem that Cecil had a way of capturing his subjects in a manner of ethereal loveliness. Double chins, spare tires, and other unwanted strong features all faded away long before the magic of photo shop. This gift earned him the title of official Royal photographer in 1937.

He photographed a lovely Princess in March, 1945.

As well as a tender and proud young mother in December of 1948.

A new exhibition of 60 portraits of the Queen will begin at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The exhibit will include some behind the scene pictures of her life, as well as her coronation, in 1953.

I hope it travels here to Phoenix or at least L.A. Sir Beaton took hundreds of portraits of other Royal family members such as Princess Margaret, at age 19 in 1949.

I personally think that the Duchess of Windsor never looked better than she did in her engagement portrait which appeared in Vogue in 1937.

In looking through these countless images I began to want to know more about Sir Cecil Beaton.

He was born in Hampstead, England in 1904. His family had risen from humble beginnings to great wealth through timber. Cecil picked up his nanny’s Kodak 3A folding camera when he was only 11.

He attended St. John’s College, Cambridge and studied art, architecture and history, although he never earned a degree. His photography skills were further developed at Paul Tanqueray’s studio until he was hired by Vogue in 1927. The subjects of his early work often included his family members. He would often used cellophane, a fairly new product at the time, for his backdrops. Here, his sister, Miss Nancy Beaton, was a “Shooting Star” in 1928.

Cecil BeatonMiss Nancy Beaton as a Shooting Star 1928

His other sister, Barbara “Baba” Beaton, Wanda Baille-Hamilton and Lady Bridget Poullett posed as soapsuds at the Living Posters Ball in 1930.

At the Famous Beauties Ball in 1931 Baba Beaton (second from left) was surrounded by Jess Chattock, Nancy Mitford (of THOSE Mitford's), and Carol Prickard in enormous pageant dresses.

Cecil also took a portrait of Baba alone. The pose and setting reminded me of a famous painting.

Empress Elisabeth “Sissi” by Franz Xaver Winterhalter 1865.

It would seem that he liked life to imitate art. Here are the Wydham sisters in 1950.

The setting and poses were based on the original “Wydham Sisters” painted by John Singer Sargent in 1899.

American society had its own royalty which was captured by Sir Beaton. Sisters Jacqueline (Kennedy Onassis) and Lee Bouvier (Radziwill) were captured for Vogue as debutantes in 1951.

Of course Hollywood took notice. Marlene Dietrich was rumored to have had a relationship with Beaton who photographed her in 1935.

Cecil Beaton, Marlene Dietrich, (1935)

There were also rumors about Cecil and Gary Cooper.

Katharine Hepburn for Vanity Fair.

Lovely Liz.

Magnificent Marilyn with a bird on her finger.

He designed the costumes for “Anna Karena” starring Vivian Leigh in 1948.

As well as for Leslie Caron’s 1958 “Gigi” for which he won his first Oscar.


His second Oscar was in 1964 for his costume designs in “My Fair Lady” starring Audrey Hepburn.

He did numerous other films, won four Tony’s, as well as receiving two other Oscar nods for Scenic Design. His last film work was on the legendary Barbra Streisand musical “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever” in 1970.


Fashion was his passion, as well as a very lucrative portion of his career. He not only took several portraits of Coco Chanel, but also of her collections.

I adore this lovely springtime dress and rather large bonnet.

Cecil Beaton's fashion photograph of the 1950s

Here is a collection of Charles James dresses that appeared in the June, 1948 Vogue.

A Legroux Soeurs Hat by Norman Parkinson, Vogue 1952.

The spring collection, Christian Dior 1957.

Pastel perfection! I would take any one of these fetching frocks!


Sir Beaton was a lover of literary work.

He himself was published several times. If you’re lucky enough to find a first edition of “The Glass of Fashion”, grab it. They now sell for around $1,500.00.

True voyeurs are fascinated with his various tell all diaries.

Sir Cecil Beaton: fashion and portrait photographer, diarist, novelist, interior designer, Academy and Tony Award winning stage and costume designer. Genius.

A true Renaissance man who inspired millions, including me. What about you?


Have you traveled lately or found a great restaurant or shop? If so, link up on Wayfaring Wednesday. You could win a giveaway of lovely French prizes.


Kelly Ballard said...

What a fascinating man! Thanks for a great post.

Second Hand Chicks

Shabbily By The Sea said...


What a fabulous,beautiful post,so interesting to read and stunningly beautiful images of which some i have seen and some that are new to me,
Thank you!
Love Kristina xxx

laxsupermom said...

What an interesting post! Such beautiful images! I love how he captured the magic in his subjects eyes, and how everyone looks absolutely stunning regardless of body type or "funny" face. Thanks for sharing.

Julie Tucker-Wolek said...

His work is truly art! :):):):):):):):):):):):)

Deneen said...

Thank you so much for showing these! They are exquisite! I love the costumes and the how they were all captured in their beauty!

Linda said...

Fantastic! Sir Cecil and YOU!

Kristina said...

What a wonderful post, and such gorgeous pictures. Audrey was incredibly beautiful. I have watched My Fair Lady so many times, and every time I wonder how she kept that hat on, or if she had a hard time breathing/moving in that dress.

Thanks again for a lovely post.

Linda said...

They said that when my Mom was a young girl she looked liked Marlene.
I just loved all those dresses and hats. They sure knew how to pull it off back then. Thanks for the lovely post.

Jane said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post! What an interesting man...
and what gorgeous photographs. Thank you so much for sharing.

ps And thanks for stopping by AG. I went to college in Macon...and agree with you that GA has some of the most beautiful landscapes. said...


Interesting post about a very talented man. Sad ending to his life though; stroke and financially insecure about his future so he had much of his work auctioned off.
The images you share are beautiful. He captured more than the physical being in his photographs.

Your Friend,

jeanette from everton terrace said...

Fascinating life. He was a genius with lighting, well as you mentioned, with so many things. I was not aware of his literary talents. I'll be keeping my eyes open for that book while I'm out "junking".

Terri said...

What an educational post! I really enjoyed your photos. I think he has a way with the eyes of a person. I wonder if he could make me look that beautiful and dreamy?

Bonnie said...

Laura, When do you sleep? You can accomplish so much in a short amount of time. This post was very interesting and I enjoyed it.

I have been reading all the entrees for Wayfaring Wednesday and I just love it. I have more to go but this is a great idea. So glad you are doing it. I love to travel and can't get enough but..... not made of money to go as often as I would like. I am dreaming of a future trip. It is so much fun to see and hear about others trips.

Karena said...

Laura what a wonderful tribute to Beaton. I loved his works from the Royals, Hollywood, and the Designer Collections.

You brought back memories of some of my favorite films, especially with Audrey Hepburn!


Art by Karena

Come and join my Giveaway of a very special painting!

Mimi said...

OH MY GOSH, for a moment when I was looking at that first pic of Audrey Hepburn, I saw MISS C all grown up, something about her perfect brown eyes, reminds me of our little Princess!!!I love her and was so happy to see her pics ALL over Rome!!!
I hope that exhibit come to town, we have a date if so!!

Debbie said...

Oh my goodness, Laura. One photo just unfolded into the next one in this post. I don't know when I've seen the equal to them. His talent is absolutely amazing.

He had the natural gift to do what only technology does today. Wonderful!

Sue said...

You made my day!!! I loved seeing the truly lovely women pictured here. The days of wearing dresses and being dressed has faded into the background and I am so sad about that. I have always considered myself a girly girl but I grew up in such a laid back era. Jeans, sweats, pants and tshirts seem to be the norm. Ahhh to go back to the era in the pictures. I would truly be in my element. Thank you, thank you for sharing these wonderful pictures.

5th and State said...

another breathtaking post laura of which i did not want to end..........seems as though some among us should live forever.......


Tamara Jansen said...

Wow! Loved this post! What class and style in all his work.

Lady Dorothy said...

Magnificent pictures! I truly enjoyed this post. Thank you. (I'm in CO and not getting on the computer much. Thanks for making the little bit of time I've been on a treat!

Deanna said...

Stunning photographs!!!
Super post,

Marilou of Lulu's Lovlies and Heartful Creations said...

Wonderful post, thanks for sharing. :) Marilou xoxo

{Bellamere Cottage} said...

Fascinating.... Thanks for sharing.

Warm blessings,

Dawn @ alteredartists said... if I ever need some research done on any subject...I am hiring you! Especially if it is in the design world at the very least. You constantly amaze me. Where in the world do you find the time? Big hugs and blessings sent your way!

Handy Man, Crafty Woman said...

I just loved this post! beautiful fashions, beautiful photos. Beautiful ladies, of course!!

Fay said...

Hi Laura what a fabulous collection -great to see BS and the NP black hat I have on My table at th e moment ( well a card of it )
just been catching up on all your posts Ive done a last one as i fly to London tomorrow have a great 2 weeks lovE FAY XX said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing all these fab photos. I remember the ones of Barbra Striesand, they are my favorites.

meijo's JOY said...

What a beautiful and informative post...this is really awesome! Thanks for sharing it!

Babs said...

Fabulous post on Sir Cecil Beaton. Babs

Hines-Sight said...

These photos are lovely. Really nice to look at them.


Natasha in Oz said...

What an interesting post about an equally fascinating man. He was a truly gifted artist.

Best wishes and happy week,

Rettabug said...

This trip down memory lane has just been marvelous, Laura! Such great information, too.
I'm sharing your post with a fashion nut that I know. Thanks!