Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things
Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) is one of the most celebrated British Portrait photographers of the twentieth century and is renowned for his images of elegance, glamour and style. His influence on portrait photography was profound and lives on today in the work of many contemporary photographers.
Beaton used his camera, his ambition and his larger-than-life personality to mingle with a flamboyant and rebellious group of artists, writers, socialites and partygoers. These ‘Bright Young Things’ captured the spirit of the roaring twenties and thirties as they cut a dramatic swathe through the epoch. Beaton quickly developed a reputation for his beautiful, often striking and fantastic photographs, which culminated in his portraits of Queen Elizabeth in 1939. More than a photographer, Beaton became a society fixture in his own right.
In a series of themed chapters, covering Beaton’s first self-portraits and earliest sitters to his time at Cambridge and as principle society photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair, over 60 leading figures who sat for him are profiled and the dazzling parties, pageants and balls of the period are brought to life. Among this glittering cast are Beaton’s socialite sisters Baba and Nancy Beaton, Stephen Tennant, the Mitfords, Siegfried Sassoon, Evelyn Waugh and Daphne Du Maurier. Beaton’s photographs are complemented by a wide range of letters, drawings and ephemera and contextualised by artworks created by those in his circle, including Christopher Wood, Rex Whistler and Henry Lamb.
A web of names spins around every image, every interaction--Virginia Woolf, the actress Anna May Wong, the economist John Maynard Keynes, the author Daphne du Maurier. Everyone seemed to know everyone....We see, through Beaton, his subjects' relentless search for distraction and, simultaneously, for meaning. We see their quest for a semblance of place, a home, but also, in contradiction, for freedom--for an escape from the humdrum, for that heady, if sometimes startling, sensation of not being trapped.--Lou Stoppard "Aperture" From Bright Young Thing and documenter of London's lost generation of the 20s to a documenter of a new generation who would lose their lives in the Second World War, this is just one slice of Cecil Beaton's remarkable life through photography--Mark Simpson "AnOther Man" Returning to Beaton's enchanted world is a tonic in a fear-ridden age, the catalogue, written by the exhibition's curator, Robin Muir, a delight.--David Platzer "New Criterion" explores the aesthetic 1920s set and the photographer who chronicled them.--Brian T. Allen "National Review" A century ago, a bohemian set of aristos and artists oozed glamour and wreaked havoc all through the streets of London.--Hannah Betts "Daily Mail" A magnificently atmospheric display of pure magic--Lucie Davies "Telegraph" An era's fun and flamboyance preserved in aspic.--Rachel Campbell-Johnston "The Times" As they posed, partied and donned extravagant costumes, Beaton captured the antics of Britain's young aristocrats between the wars.--Sean O'Hagan "Guardian" Beaton changed fashion photography forever.--Robin Muir "Vogue: UK" Cecil Beaton and His Bright Young Things Are More Pertinent Than Ever--Jack Moss "AnOther" Cecil Beaton's Bright Young Things Are Tinged With Darkness--Will Noble "Londonist" Decades after Cecil Beaton captured their heyday on camera, his most colourful characters are taking us for a spin again--Hugo Vickers "Telegraph" Glittering portrait of a gilded generation.--Melanie McDonagh "Evening Standard" Power, privilege and glamour in 1920s London: Inside the glittering world of the Bright Young Things--Eve Watling "Independent" The 'Bright Young Things, ' as a flamboyant group of artists, writers and socialites came to be known, are shown here in all their decadence, boundless creativity and utter fashionability.--Ken Scrudato "Blackbook"
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