Vanity Fair Portraits: photographs 1913-2008, Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Tuesday 19 August 2008
This exhibition almost becomes a homage to Annie Leibovitz. This is no bad thing, but it shows how the Vanity Fair photographers – including Cecil Beaton, Edward Steichen, Man Ray and Mario Testino – have played such an integral part in the magazine's history.
Leibovitz was hired as Vanity Fair's chief photographer on its relaunch 25 years ago – 60 years after Steichen was lured in on a $35,000-a-year salary by its publisher Condé Nast. Before then, Baron de Mayer had developed the soft-focus portrait, and in 1920 he captured a wistful Charlie Chaplin just before production began on his first feature film, The Kid. Steichen's photographs include, from 1923, a mischievous-looking Fanny Brice, the comedian and satirist; and a stunning 1924 image of the film star Gloria Swanson.
Man Ray began contributing portraits of leading arts figures after arriving in Paris in 1922. His bust-like image of Pablo Picasso shows the artist in a shadowy dark-grey profile.
The exhibition then fast-forwards nearly 50 years. There's Irving Penn's 1984 black-and-white portrait of Norman Mailer; Helmut Newton's imperious Margaret Thatcher; and Testino's breezy Diana, Princess of Wales, 12 weeks before her death. But it is Leibovitz who steals the show.
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