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Artists Cecil Beaton
Cecil Beaton Photo

Cecil Beaton

British Photographer, Costume and Set Designer, Painter, Diarist

Movements and Styles: Fashion Photography, Photojournalism

Born: January 14, 1904 - Hampstead, United Kingdom

Died: January 18, 1980 - Broad Chalke, United Kingdom

Cecil Beaton Timeline

Quotes

"Photography has provided me with a passport into many fields of interest which would otherwise have remained unknown. It has enabled me to meet, even if only once, a large number of famous people. Many an afternoon I have enjoyed in isolated intimacy with some personage whose path, but for my profession, I might never have crossed. Sometimes I was never to see them again; but photography has also been the means of discovering lifelong friends"
Cecil Beaton
"I was able to bring out many of my familiar tricks, and also deciphered how easy, in comparison to photographing beautiful women of the world, it is to photograph men. The photographer of men has chosen an easy life."
Cecil Beaton
"My attitude to women is this - I adore to dance with them and take them to theatres and private views and talk about dresses and plays and women, but I'm really much more fond of men. My friendships with men are much more wonderful than with women. I've never been in love with women and I don't think I ever shall in the way that I have been in love with men"
Cecil Beaton
"She is the only person with glamour. She is flattered and pleased that she is an amazing success but she does not want to meet her fans. Women send orchids to her every day, men telephone on long distance calls to try and hear her voice. She is so casual and dreamy. She doesn't give a damn and the fact that she doesn't give a damn and will not come out of hiding only increases the frenzy and as with me they are almost driven insane with desire to see her and incidentally she gets more publicity in this way than if she were at everyone's beck and call"
Cecil Beaton
"I soon found I had fallen so much under Picasso's influence that I was seeing the world with eyes other than my own, with Picasso's eyes in fact. I began to realize that many ordinary objects, pieces of cork, metal and paper, even ordinary boxes of matches - yellow, blue and black- which one sees every day, when seen in his company, look as if they are the creation of the master himself"
Cecil Beaton

".. there is always something dramatic about the job of permanently recording the features of a human being, it is the theatre bought to everyday life; the ordinary routine of existence is broken and the tension is heightened .."

Synopsis

Beaton was one of the foremost photographers of the twentieth century, best known for his elegant and unusual shots of celebrities and royalty. His fascination with glamour and high society continued throughout his life and he was considered a style leader in his own right, known for his easy charm and wit as well as his flamboyance of dress and waspish comments on celebrity figures, a trait that prompted the writer Jean Cocteau to dub him "Malice in Wonderland". He was also a prominent innovator in the relatively new field of fashion photography, an accomplished photojournalist, the winner of two Oscars for his costume design, and a prolific writer publishing numerous texts, including six volumes of his own diaries. Extremely ambitious, Beaton's superb aesthetic eye and flair for the theatrical allowed him to remain relevant over a 50-year career during which he regularly reinvented himself and his style.

Key Ideas

Beaton excelled at capturing the individual personality of his sitters, presenting them in new ways that brought out elements of their character not seen in other portraits. In doing so, he made them accessible and sympathetic to the wider public, helping to create or reinforce their status as iconic social figures.
His fashion photographs were characterized by their decorative appearance and interesting compositions and his earlier images often contained elements of Surrealism. He was particularly known for his use of unusual backgrounds including cellophane, silver foil and papier mâché and these complex sets are clearly rooted in theatrical practice.
Beaton utilized his photographic talents during the Second World War to document the British war effort, photographing the lives of normal people as well as the key political players of the era. His images depict a country doing its best to carry on as normal and are infused with a sense of national pride, consequently many were utilized as propaganda to keep morale high during the conflict.
Although Beaton dated a number of women including Greta Garbo, he preferred men and he had several prominent gay relationships. This gave him a sense of guilt and shame throughout much of his life and this was a significant driving force in his desire for high achievement, proving his abilities to himself and others. It has also been suggested that Beaton's interpretation of female glamour and male muscularity may have been informed by his sexuality and that this, along with his photo colleges, subsequently influenced the queer visual culture of Pop Art in the 1960s, including artists such as Andy Warhol and David Hockney.

Biography

Cecil Beaton Photo

Childhood

Cecil Walter Hardy Beaton was born in Hampstead, England to Ernest Beaton, a timber merchant, and Esther Sisson. He was one of four children. The family were middle class and Beaton's interest in the arts was encouraged from a young age. In his biography, Photobiography (1951) Beaton discusses the moment when he first developed an interest in photography, pinpointing an occasion when he was three years old and saw some postcards depicting Lily Elsie, an Edwardian singer and actress. He subsequently made visits to his local stationers to spend his pocket money on postcards of as many famous actresses as he could. His father also brought him theatre magazines and illustrated theatre programmes from America when he travelled on business. Beaton was given his first camera, a Box-Brownie, at the age of 11. His nurse, Alice Collard, (known as 'Ninnie'), a keen amateur photographer, initially helped him to polish his technique and with this assistance, Beaton started to take photographs of his family, often posing his sisters and mother in a manner that emulated Hollywood starlets.

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Cecil Beaton Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Cecil Beaton
Interactive chart with Cecil Beaton's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Baron Adolph de Meyer
Edward SteichenEdward Steichen
Piero della FrancescaPiero della Francesca
El GrecoEl Greco
EO Hoppé

Personal Contacts

Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Stephen Tennant
David HockneyDavid Hockney
Francis BaconFrancis Bacon

Movements

RenaissanceRenaissance
ExpressionismExpressionism
RomanticismRomanticism
SurrealismSurrealism

Influences on Artist
Cecil Beaton
Cecil Beaton
Years Worked: 1928 - 1979
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Rankin
Annie LeibovitzAnnie Leibovitz
Nick Knight
Tim Walker

Personal Contacts

David Bailey
Angus McBean
Irving PennIrving Penn

Movements

Portrait photography
Fashion PhotographyFashion Photography
PhotojournalismPhotojournalism

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Libby Festorazzi

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kate Stephenson

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Libby Festorazzi
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kate Stephenson
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