(Russia, France, United States of America 1900 – 1968)
24.4 x 17.9 cm image
‘I would plan backgrounds and introduce various props; then in the middle of a sitting I would discover that they hindered me, and I would instantly discard them, no matter how much I had planned the overall effect; and once I had freed myself of all sentimental contraptions, I would return to the simplicity and calm of unencumbered pose and concentrate on the mood and attitude of the model.’ George Von Hoyningen-Huene nd 1
Taken at the beginning of his influential career, George Von Hoyningen-Huene’s portrait of Lillian Fischer epitomises the sophisticated elegance of 1930s fashion photography. The quiet observation of the pearly texture of skin, the lustre of satin, and the gloss of hair against a halo of subtle backlighting creates a vision of classic beauty. Born into an aristocratic Russian family, Hoyningen-Huene fled to London after the revolution. He studied with the cubist painter André Lhote in Paris in the early 1920s, and was hired as a fashion illustrator by French ‘Vogue’ in 1925. After stints in New York for ‘Vogue’ and ‘Harper’s Bazaar’, he established himself in Hollywood in 1946, where his publicity shots of film-star glamour were highly sought after.
Hoyningen-Huene’s style, in which the line of a dress or the pose of the model is rendered with exquisite refinement and simplicity, has been called ‘the quintessence of early Thirties functional elegance’.2 Although he was an admirer of Baron de Meyer’s atmospheric lighting, it was Edward Steichen’s modernism that had the greatest influence on Hoyningen-Huene. The sharpness and clarity of Fischer’s portrait are indebted to Steichen, as is its strong lighting and use of shadows. Fischer’s pose and averted gaze is characteristic of Hoyningen-Huene’s work, in which poised, haughty women coolly present their beauty for the contemplation of others. Fischer is transformed by light – radiating an almost divine perfection in an effect that was unequalled by any other photographer at the time.
1.Ewing W A 1986, ‘The photographic art of Hoyningen-Huene’, Thames & Hudson, London p 102
2. ibid p 99
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
Robyn Daw (Curator), Architects of Glamour + Masters of Style: Excerpts from a Century of Fashion Photography, 2003. no catalogue numbers
Nicola Teffer, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Fashion and celebrity', pg.169-187, Sydney, 2007, 177 (illus.).
Architects of Glamour + Masters of Style: excepts from a century of fashion photography, Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Brisbane, 27 Jun 2003–07 Sep 2003