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Posted on June 14 2017

From massive photographic archives that span half a century, he gives us a fascinating look back to the years of Vogue

Scanned from Photo Magazine, June/July 1977


On either side of an entrance to an enormous room of rough white walls, with three wooden steps dividing it in the middle, are five ugly khaki green metal filing cabinets.  The first one on the right is labeled “The Royal Family,” the next “Trips,” the last “Self-Portraits.”  Farther along there is a gray metal cabinet in which several hundred prints lie-the fruits of an era, records of work on the scenery and costumes of “My Fair Lady.”  These are Cecil Beaton's photographic archives.  At the other end of the room are 100 volumes, catalogs, and albums, a dozen canvases and drawings, and 50 large exhibit-size prints, all of it piled casually together.  Broadchalke, a small village in Wilshire 65 miles west of London, is where “Sir Cecil,” as the natives call him, lives in retirement.  About 50 yards from his impressive storage house is a small manor called “Reddish House.”  Cecil Beaton has been living there for the past three years, since his heart attack and subsequent partial paralysis.  He lives surrounded by a secretary-governess, a cook, a butler, a gardener, and a housekeeper.  It is in the winter garden or in the marble dining room that he spends his days-organizing the 50 albums of his own work and the work of those he particularly admires.  It is no small task, for his collection has grown continuously since he began it in 1925.  Very shortly, Sotheby's will be forced to file and index all his archives; then, no doubt, it will organize a sale of original prints-a sale that will be preceded by a big retrospective and the publication of a comprehensive book.  

Cecil Beaton made his file available to us for 48 hours, allowing us to choose any photograph we desired.  With this exceptional opportunity, we decided to first present colour images and fashion photographs done for the most part during the “grand” period of English Vogue.  At a future date we plan to show you his portraits and his accounts of numerous trips (among which is an extrordinary report on New York done in the late thirties).  If the photographs have no captions it is only because order and filing are not among the primary virtues of this marvelous turn-of-the-century aristocrat who didn't worry much about his own “saga.”




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