Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cecil Beaton Profile


The days here are as crisp and clear as Granny Smiths and while my body is busy my mind is wandering. I've ambled down the path of the Mitford clan and settled in for a nice long visit with Winston Churchill and just when I thought I'd turned the corner and might rejoin the 21st century, I happened upon Cecil Beaton.


Beaton (1904 - 1980) was a creative force in England and the States, primarily known for his photography, but also a set and costume designer, artist and prolific journal writer.


A captivating character, his level of creativity is astounding. Still, while enchanted by his story, I can't stop looking at the pictures.


And then yesterday on a walk, I began to wonder when the fashion of having your portrait done in profile began to fade.


Mr. Blandings's aunt, a woman of inestimable taste, has a stunning black and white portrait of herself and her daughter in profile on her dresser.


It's not a pose most prefer. A view of ourselves with which we are largely unfamiliar. We like to preserve the view that we prepare, the one that we perceive. Full on. Straight ahead. The nose slightly obscured by the energy of the eyes and, in some cases, the halo of hair.

But the world largely sees us from all angles. The jaw weak, the prominent beak, all pieces of a whole that we acknowledge and accept in others but avoid seeing in ourselves.

All images by Cecil Beaton. From top, the photographer's mother, Sir Laurence Olivier, Lady Diane Cooper, Greta Garbo, all from Cecil Beaton, Memoirs of the '40s. The photographer's sisters, Nancy and Baba, and the last image of Beaton himself from The Wandering Years, Diaries: 1922-1939. Second to the last image, Doris Castlerosse from Cecil Beaton, a Biography by Hugo Vickers.

30 comments:

Jane said...

Hello kindred spirit. Lovely images. Yes isn't it funny the way we look at ourselves in the mirror a particular way but in reality noone sees us that way at all. The other thing these lovely photos have in common (apart from the profiles) is that in those days people held their heads high! xoxo

mise said...

The Mitfords, Churchill, and Beaton: what wonderfully establishment escapism for the start of the cold season. I've lined up Edith Wharton for the very same purpose.

pve design said...

I really must post, a black and white photo from my wedding, I gave the photographer clear instructions to use - "Cecil Beaton" as a guide - I love profiles - and think you should have your profile shot. ( I mean taken) It gives a sort of "Hitchcock"wit to life.
Package is en route to you, 2nd time is charm.
pve

Mrs. Blandings said...

Jane - yes! And back. I find I stick my neck out like a chicken. Mr. Blandings's aunt would not approve.

Mrs. Blandings said...

Mise - I have Churchill's mother's biography on my bedside table as well. I may be reading contemporary fiction when my grandchildren are studying it.

Mrs. Blandings said...

pve - No way! That weak jaw and prominent beak are my own! Can't wait to see what the postman will bring. Thanks.

Creative Tonic said...

LOVE Cecil Beaton! There is a wonderful out of print (maybe just hard to find) book with all of his "Royal Portraits"- the book is called "The Royal Portraits". The hand painted backdrops are stunning and lots of inspiration in how many of the portraits are styled. No library is complete without it!

The Peak of Chic said...

Patricia- You should def. spend some time looking through the CB Studio Archives on the Sotheby's website. I can't seem to get it to open properly this morning, but here is the link: http://www.sothebys.com/picture-library/index.html

Mrs. Blandings said...

Tonic - I will keep an eye out - thanks.

Mrs. Blandings said...

Jennifer - terrific - I will take a look. Thank you, thank you.

Style Court said...

Patricia,

Do you have a traditional wedding portrait of yourself in semi-profile?

Mrs. Blandings said...

Courtney - I took one - but I didn't order it!

mary said...

Oh, please, a profile view: then I could place my hand under my slightly sagging chin line and no one would be the wiser (maybe). Please more Cecil photos.
Have a great week.

Hannah said...

Wonderful post--a Cecil Beaton anecdote: I remember watching the remake of the Parent Trap with Dennis Quaid & Natasha Richardson in high school and falling in love with a painting that is over Natasha Richardson's character's bed. It is the profile of a woman in a wide-brimmed hat. I was desperate to find out where it was from, but couldn't find anything on the internet. Later, I ended up watching the special edition dvd & it turns out that the it is an original Cecil Beaton painting that he did of Audrey Hepburn when he was working on the costumes for My Fair Lady. The painting belonged to director Nancy Meyers. It is the only thing like it that I have ever seen by Beaton, because one typically comes across his photographs or costume sketches. Has anyone come across any of his paintings online? I would love to see more.

Style Court said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
madre said...

we have a fabulous Cecil Beaton photograph of Marilyn Monroe laying on a silk kimono. It is autographed by Marilyn to my husband: "Todd, you're only 7 and I'll wait for you." Isn't that too amazing? My husband's uncle was her publicist for many years...

Greet said...

I am a fan of the Cecil Beaton black and white pictures!
And I am so happy to see these wonderful ones on your blog! And like you I am going to look at the Sotheby's picture library immediately!

Greet

Style Court said...

I guess a lot of faithful Mrs. Blandings readers know this but in the October issue of World of Interiors Hamish Bowles apartment is featured and he owns some of Beaton's work. It's a must see. Lots of fun!

mo-zy said...

Mrs. Blandings,
The best post to date I have ever read on anyone's blog. It was purely magical and very grand.

Applause, applause...

Mrs. Blandings said...

mo-zy - a humble and sincere thanks though I simply cannot believe this is so. Thank you, thank you.

ADG said...

I have an original Cecil Beaton photograph of Max Beerbohm. Just bought a book of Beaton's diary excerpts the other day. He loved Garbo.

Mrs. Blandings said...

ADG - Loved would be an understatement.

Mrs. Blandings said...

Madre - truly amazing. Truly.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

I'm in the midst of "The Glass of Fashion" right now. He wrote very well, too.

ADG, I'm jealous, man. Please come decorate my rooms at the Manse.

Creative Tonic said...

One more thing... no one mentioned that Madonna bought Cecil Beaton's home "Ashcombe" in the English countryside. Did you see the Vogue spread of it a few years ago. If my memory serves me???!!!... I THINK Cecil used to dye his sheep pastel colors and Madonna did the same for the photo shoot.... AND I think the layout feature original photos of the home with Madonnas current updates. Did she and Guy Ritchie sell it?

Clarity said...

He inspired me when I was a wee teen to really push my photography. Odd how I looked to the past for freshness and originality. Truly a rennaisance man to be admired.

Anonymous said...

That last comment was not left by Mrs. Brown just in case you are wondering.

Mrs. Blandings said...

Anonymous - I would never think that anyone as clever as Mrs. Brown would stop here.

Anonymous said...

Is that really all you have to do, bash teachers online? Nice life.

Mrs. Blandings said...

Darling, slow down, I'm having a hard time keeping up. I had to go searching for your first comment.