Avedon Fashion 1944-2000 - Design Bureau

Anne Havinga

Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon

Avedon Fashion 1944-2000

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Avedon Fashion 1944-2000 reflects legendary photographer Richard Avedon‘s strong perspective and intricate work processes as he captured some of fashion’s most high-profile women. Anne Havinga, the Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Senior Curator of Photographs at theMuseum of Fine Arts, Boston, heads the show at the MFA Boston.

Why did you decide to bring the Richard Avedon show to the MFA, Boston?

Richard Avedon was one of the most important fashion photographers of the 20th century and we are thrilled to present this exhibition in Boston. Originally organized by the International Center of Photography and the Avedon Foundation, we wanted it to come to Boston because the MFA has long had a strong interest in fashion. The Museum has major holdings of fashionable dress in its collections, and our curators have organized a number of fashion photography exhibitions, including the show Fashion Photography I did a few years ago.

Instead of representing models in static poses, Avedon used movement to infuse his images with dynamism, energy, spontaneity and charm. The playful exuberance of his work and its strong graphic quality made it greatly appealing. The art directors at Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue could not get enough of his imagery. Avedon’s photographs are lively, optimistic, exciting, innovative and tremendously powerful.

What do Avedon’s fashion images communicate?

He had an instinctual eye for what made dressing up special, and he loved to show images of women living exciting, glamorous lives. He captured these women sitting in a Paris café, flirting with lovers and dancing madly. This was an ideal of the modern American woman—one of wit, individuality and fast-paced glamour. In 1957, Hollywood honored Avedon in the movie Funny Face, in which Fred Astaire played the role of fashion photographer Dick Avery, based on Avedon and Audrey Hepburn portrayed his muse, Jo Stockton, based on model Suzy Parker. Richard Avedon has been an important role model for high-profile fashion photographers, and still is today.

How is the work shown in the gallery so that it can communicate Avedon’s perspective?

The show is presented by decade, so visitors will be able to see the breadth of Avedon’s work and its evolution from the mid 1940s until 2000 (Avedon died in 2004). His portrayals from the 1950s capture the elegance of Dior’s “New Look,” with its cinched waists and voluminous skirts. His images of the 1960s record the geometric, mod styles of Courréges, Cardin and others. In 1992, Avedon was named the first staff photographer for The New Yorker. His post-apocalyptic fashion fable In Memory of the Late Mr. and Mrs. Comfortwas published in that magazine.

There’s a wonderful range in scale among the works in the exhibition—some very large, some small—and they are installed in the gallery in a spacious and elegant manner. The Avedon Foundation likes his final works to be hung by themselves in order to give them space and air; they are so strong visually that they would otherwise compete with each other.

Why are documents such as Avedon’s contact sheets and magazine layouts included within the show?

The documentary material shows how Avedon thought out his compositions, and the magazine spreads reveal the final layout of his work. Viewers can follow Avedon’s working method through proof sheets depicting his “shoot” sequences, in which the photographer and model are shown trying out a variety of positions.

He may have started out knowing that he could make a great picture with a dynamic model, but he would try a few things out until he got the precise one. The exhibition also includes some of the many striking Harper’s Bazaar and Voguecovers that Avedon created, which reveal his ability to create superb, upbeat images with tremendous graphic punch.

Q+A by Kathryn Freeman Rathbone
Photographs by Richard Avedon


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