'Fashion Eye Venice': A captivating diary of Cecil Beaton’s Venetian sojourn

Louis Vuitton’s latest publication, Fashion Eye Venice by Cecil Beaton, highlights the parallel between photographer Beaton’s vision of beauty and the serenity of mid-20th century Venice.

by Devanshi ShahPublished on : Jun 16, 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.

Gondolas along the Grand Canal| Fashion Eye Venice by Cecil Beaton | Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
Gondolas along the Grand Canal Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

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”.

At the Masquerade Ball | Fashion Eye Venice by Cecil Beaton | Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
At the Masquerade Ball Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

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.

Enjoying the Venetian shore | Fashion Eye Venice by Cecil Beaton | Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
Enjoying the Venetian shore Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

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. 

Lounging along the canals of Venice | Fashion Eye Venice by Cecil Beaton | Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
Lounging along the canals of Venice Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

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.

A Venetian summer | Fashion Eye Venice by Cecil Beaton | Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
A Venetian summer afternoon Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

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.

Masquerade and Venetian heritage| Fashion Eye Venice by Cecil Beaton | Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
Masquerade and Venetian heritage Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton
Portraits in Venice | Fashion Eye Venice by Cecil Beaton | Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
Portraits from Venice Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton
Interiors of historical Palazzo’s in Venice| Fashion Eye Venice by Cecil Beaton | Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
Interiors of historical Palazzo in Venice Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton
Cecil Beaton in Venice | Fashion Eye Venice by Cecil Beaton | Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
Cecil Beaton in Venice Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton
Views of the Grand Canal in colour | Fashion Eye Venice by Cecil Beaton | Louis Vuitton | STIRworld
Views of the Grand Canal in colour Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

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.

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