He was considered, along with Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, to be one of the most important photographers of the twentieth century. He was viewed as a star by the rich and beautiful, who stood in line to be portrayed by him. He was the king of fashion pho-tography and a “magician of light.” Even Salvador Dalí designed sets for his photo shootings: Horst P. Horst (1906–1999). The NRW-Forum Düsseldorf is presenting in Germany a retrospective of the legendary photographer curated by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Horst: Photographer of Style presents 250 photographic works from sixty years of creative output, including his famous works as a Vogue photographer, portraits of stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Rita Hayworth, and also surrealistic and naturalistic photographs along with travel pictures. In addition, the touring exhibition includes sketch books, private letters and previously unpublished material.
Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann, born in 1908 in Weißenfels an der Saale, traveled to Paris in 1930 to work as an architecture student with Le Corbusier. There he began his career as a photographer: he met George Hoyningen-Huene, the head photographer of the French edition of Vogue. The young apprentice frequently posed as a model for the established photographer. He achieved his own breakthrough as a photographer in 1932, when his portrait of the daughter of Sir James Hamet Dunn, an important art patron, appeared in the British edition of Vogue. In the same year, he received a personal invitation from Condé Nast to spend six months in New York photographing for the American edition of Vogue. His first portrait of a Hollywood actress – Betty Davis – was published by the Vogue-affiliated magazine Vanity Fair. There were subsequently portraits of such figures as Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Joan Crawford and Ginger Rogers. As the new star photographer of Vogue, he was active in the fashion centers Paris, London and New York; he photographed the first supermodels, such as Lisa Fonssagrives, who posed in dresses by the couturiers Coco Chanel or Jeanne Lanvin.
His elegant black-and-white photographs from the nineteen-thirties made him a master of light and shadow. He drew inspiration from contemporary artistic trends such as Surreal-ism and Dada. In addition to dramatic lighting, stylistic characteristics of this photo-artist were three-dimensional impact, classicist compositions and the idealization of beauty. The model and actress Carmen Dell’Orefice once said that no one knew better than he how light had to fall on an object.