by Dilpreet BhullarSep 10, 2021
Cecil Beaton’s gaze had the ability to capture beautiful things. Often credited with elevating the idea of photographic portraiture to a fashion art form, the world Beaton depicted through his camera lens is one of style and elegance. In his youth he captured the glamorous life of London and New York society, and eventually became Vogue’s chief photographer, holding the position for several decades and photographing everyone from Greta Garbo to Picasso, to members of the British Royal family. His theatrical compositions and photographs of the Bright Young Things of 1920s and 30s documented a group of young aristocrats and socialites as they engaged in elaborate parties, defining the flapper aesthetic. His later work as a set and costume designer for theatre and film earned him three Oscars, including for the costume design for My Fair Lady in 1964. A polymath when it comes to taste, and visual artistry, the world seen through Beaton’s photography can be equal parts wit and eloquence. An aesthete, artist, diarist and dandy, Beaton lived for beauty. His diaries were often extraordinarily candid and chronicled his busy life.
Louis Vuitton’s publication Fashion Eye Venice by Cecil Beaton offers a delightful and timeless parallel between Beaton’s eye and the serenity of mid-20th century Venice. The photographer left numerous evocative diaries and photographic records of his trips to the city that documented the Costume balls, and social events within and around the historical Palazzos across the island. Speaking of his love for travelling, Beaton once said: “Who does not love to travel? We are all Marco Polos under the skin, dreaming of far-flung voyages with all the fervour of a 19th century romantic”.
A centuries-old tradition, the Venetian masks are typically worn at the Carnivale di Venezia (Carnival of Venice), which celebrates the end of Lent. The iconic masks, however, were, and continue to be, a prominent feature in the grand balls and parties.
The Venetian archipelago features numerous beaches. Beaton captured its remarkable serenity in the background of this iconic portraiture. The impact of theatre and ballet is clearly visible in the poses that illustrate Beaton’s magical worldview and timeless imagination.
Whether designing costumes or sets for stage or screen, interpreting the grandest couture creations for the pages of Vogue, or focusing his lens on celebrities, Beaton transformed the subjects of his photographs into icons.
His diaries recount his encounters with exceptional people—talented, glamorous, idiosyncratic, and often grand figures—who constituted the high society and high Bohemia that became his habitat.
Beaton’s vivid photography resonates with the phrase ‘La Serenissima’, which is often associated with the city. This photography book is part of Louis Vuitton’s on-going Fashion Eye collection.