Review of Horst P. Horst: Horst Vintage, Hamiltons London

Horst P. Horst is one of the most iconic fashion photographers of the mid-20th Century. Known by the one-word photographic byline “Horst”, his expansive oeuvre of fashion and portraiture photography was a collaboration of talent, glamour and imagination. Spanning from the 1930s through a career of 60 years, Horst mastered an unrivaled technique in his image making. Of its time his use of lighting and composition were but two significant factors that helped contribute to a definitive and iconic style that would help to deem his work revolutionary; not singularly in terms of photography, but also with regards to advertising editorial, fashion and design. Noted as the primary photographer for Vogue by the mid 1930s, the artist’s images involved art directors, fashion editors and set technicians in precise and often intricately arranged studios.

Of the 35 images selected from the Horst estate for display in the Hamiltons exhibition, all exude an aura of glamour and style that is sophisticated and powerful. Taken from the 1930s – 1950s his work in fashion often takes as its focus the female form which is eroticised as a sculptural being; demonstrating a prowess to transform the “flat” image into something that seems to move with fluidity yet retain a bold statuesque prominence. Whilst intimate portraits of notable figures of the period are strikingly personable, yet heightened in their elegance, creating intriguing relationships between sitter, photographer and audience.

Above all it is an overarching sense of style that lends such timeless appeal to Horst’s work. In recognising classical aesthetics, Horst transforms these associated norms with unpredictable, surrealist undertones that make for arresting and enduringly captivating photography. As stated by the photographer himself: -“It has to do with eye appeal.”

This is exactly as Horst’s work can be seen to stand, a visual feast of ageless glamour that is both clever and aesthetically appealing. This exhibition offers an alluring introduction and a keen reminder of the work that Horst achieved through the showcase of rare vintage prints. The exhibition also coincides with a retrospective of the photographer at The Victoria & Albert Museum, Horst Photographer of Style.

Horst P. Horst: Horst Vintage, until 24 November, Hamiltons 13 Carlos Place, London, W1K 2EU

Maresa Harvey

1. Helen Bennett, Paris Studio, 1938, Vintage gelatin silver print, 7 x 9 1/4 in. (17.8 x 23.5 cm.) © Horst Estate and Condé Nast.