1920s and ’30s Glamour Fashion on View at NC Museum

Edward Steichen, Gloria Swanson, 1924 © 1924 Condé Nast Publications, New York

The romance and fascination of Hollywood’s Golden Era will be on view early next year in North Carolina at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art with a display of the fashion photographs of Edward Steichen. Referred to as American’s first great fashion photographer, Steichen was already a famous painter and photographer on both sides of the Atlantic when, in early 1923, he was offered possibly one of the most prestigious and certainly the most lucrative position in photography’s commercial domain―that of chief photographer for Condé Nast’s influential and highly-regarded magazines, Vogue and Vanity Fair.

For the next fifteen years, Steichen would take full advantage of the resources and prestige conferred by the Condé Nast empire, putting his exceptional talents, prodigious energies and modernist sensibilities to work dramatizing and glamorizing celebrities such as Gloria Swanson, Katherine Hepburn, Gary Cooper, Martha Graham, Walt Disney, Greta Garbo, Fred Astaire and others. Organized by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, “StarPower” brings together Steichen’s Condé Nast portraits of luminaries from the worlds of politics, literature, government, journalism, dance, theatre, music, fashion and opera.

Edward Steichen, Walt Disney, 1933 © 1933 Condé Nast Publications, New YorkThe era documented in the exhibition, 1923 to 1937, recalls an equally glamorous period in Reynolda’s history, when Mary Reynolds Babcock redesigned the historic house’s basement in the latest streamlined modern style to serve as a fashionable gathering place for her friends, and Nancy Reynolds commissioned elegant evening gowns from New York design houses. A tour of the costume collection in the Reynolda House “attic” reveals gowns and accessories by Chanel, designer Hattie Carnegie, the House of Worth, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue, just a few of the fashion houses cited in Steichen’s photographs.

The exhibition opens February 23, 2013.

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