Worcester Art Museum Spotlights Fashion Photography in ‘Dressing Up’

If you are not in fashion, you are nobody.” -Lord Chesterfield, “Letter to his son”, April 30, 1750

(WORCESTER, MASS., OCTOBER 31, 2001) - From the outrageous styling of fashion magazine advertisements to a debutante portrait of Jacqueline Bouvier (Kennedy Onassis), the Worcester Art Museum surveys 20th century fashion photography in a special exhibition on view Saturday, Nov. 10 through Sunday, Jan. 20. Dressing Up: Photographs of Style and Fashion is a compilation of about 50 photographs that provides an engaging record of the changing customs, modes and cultural goals of the era.

Dressing Up spotlights the Museum's collection of fashion photography and includes borrowed works from the archives of Condé Nast, publisher of trend-setting magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Mademoiselle, and Glamour. The images span the 20th century, flanking portraits from high society with supermodels selling high fashion. The exhibition features fashion advertisements for designers such as Rudi Gernreich, Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, Chanel, Adolfo and others.

Since its inception, photography has been a medium for portraiture, and professional photographers carry on the long and distinguished artistic tradition of their forebears, including portrait painters Anthony Van Dyck, Francisco Goya and John Singer Sargent. The images often feature the sitters' finest costumes, indicators of their status and sophistication, and record the style of dress and deportment of the day. As stylish apparel became widely available in the 20th century, photography assumed a new role as magazines combined clothing advertisement and society journalism. The images quickly transcended commercial intent as photographers strove to reflect attitude and outlook as well as prevailing taste.

The exhibition features personalities ubiquitous in society and synonymous with style. Visitors will see photographer Frances McLaughlin-Gill's portrayal of a young Jacqueline Bouvier (Kennedy Onassis), Sir Cecil Beaton's portrait of Fred Astaire, a 1937 portrait of the Duchess of Windsor by legendary photographer Horst P. Horst, Irving Penn's portrait of Truman Capote and Alfred Cheney Johnston's photograph of actress Billie Burke.

“Some of the best photographers were attracted to fashion work, and their photographs stand as enduring works of art,” said David Acton, curator of prints, drawings and photographs. “The Worcester Art Museum has been building its collection to include photographs of this genre by Man Ray, Frank Horvat, Cecil Beaton, Matsy Wynn Richards and Deborah Turbeville.”

The exhibition features the work of photographers whose reputations transcend commercial and fashion photography and whose work can be found in galleries and museums worldwide. Man Ray and Horst P. Horst worked in fashion photography in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s and fused the imagery of contemporary art with their commercial work. Mid-century, photographer Richard Avedon emerged as a top fashion and society photographer. He and fellow photographer Irving Penn had long careers with Vogue magazine and share status as the most influential photographers of the second half of the 20th century. Deborah Turbeville, Gösta Peterson and Frank Horvat were fashion photographers in the 1960s whose work filled the pages of magazines such as Mademoiselle, Vogue, Elle, Glamour, Harper's Bazaar and the Parisian Jardin des Modes. These photographers have pursued other projects, such as digital imaging, book publishing and museum and gallery exhibitions.

This exhibition is sponsored by Flagship Bank and Trust Company, and supported by the Hall and Kate Peterson Fund for Photography. The media sponsor is the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Museum Background

Opened to the public in 1898, the Worcester Art Museum is the second largest art museum in New England. Its exceptional 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints and drawings is displayed in 36 galleries and spans 5,000 years of art and culture, ranging from Egyptian antiquities and Roman mosaics to Impressionist paintings and contemporary art. Throughout its first century, the Worcester Art Museum proved itself a pioneer: the first American museum to purchase work by Claude Monet (1910) and Paul Gauguin (1921); the first museum to bring a medieval building to America (1927); a sponsor of the first major excavation at Antioch, one of the four great cities of ancient Rome (1932); the first museum to create an Art All-State program for high school artists (1987); the originator of the first exhibition of Dutch master Judith Leyster (1993); and the first museum to focus its contemporary art programs on art of the last 10 years (1998). The Museum's hours are: Wednesday through Sunday, 11am-5pm, and Saturday 10am-5pm. Admission: FREE for members; Non-members: $8 Adults; $6 Seniors and full-time college students with current ID; FREE for youth 17 and under; FREE for everyone Saturday mornings 10am-noon sponsored by The TJX Companies and Massachusetts Electric Company. For more information, call (508) 799-4406 or visit the Museum at 55 Salisbury Street in Worcester.