Monday, October 31, 2011

Cecil Beaton in New York

The Marquesa de Casa Maury on a field of Beaton roses.
You may remember that I wrote in the October issue of Elle Decor magazine about the new "Cecil Beaton: The New York Years" exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York and its accompanying catalogue book published by Rizzoli. (Read the story here.) Last week TD and I headed up to the museum on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street for the opening night reception for the show. From the '20s through the '60s the imaginative, influential English photographer and designer often worked in New York City, and his photographs, paintings, set designs and costumer designs are on view in the exhibit. "With his European sensibility, Beaton helped make New York City a cultural center between the wars," curator and author Donald Albrecht told me.

We ran into friend Mario Buatta who helped sponsor the evening, and proceeded in. At the entrance of the exhibit are some stunning black and white photographs from the '20s mounted on a very dramatic black and white Cecil Beaton rose pattern wallpaper. We met at the reception Roger Bernard and Andrew Ginger from the Cecil Beaton Fabric Collection, who was over from England for business and for the opening. They reported that the Beaton Rose pattern is available in a number of color ways. I said I thought the big black and white pattern would look great in a small powder room. So luxe.
Here is a closer look at Paula Gellibrand, Marquesa de Casa Maury, photographed by Beaton in 1928. I love her shimmering dress and background. Her long oval face reminded me of my grandmother, Florence Mumford.

I admired this woman's similar shimmering dress...

and read the identifying card to learn that it is Beaton himself! In drag for a Cambridge University production. Those were the days.
Inside the exhibition was this delicate watercolor of Tallulah Bankhead from 1932. I like the colorblocked dress, which is a big trend in fashion this fall too.

Posted throughout were provocative quotes from Mr. Beaton:

The Englishman designed this costume for Birgit Nilsson for the 1961 Metropolitan Opera production of Turandot.

Perhaps Beaton is best known for his iconic, Edwardian black and white costumes for the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady. He had this to say:

Here is Cecil Beaton in top hat with Truman Capote. Can you imagine the conversations?

This is a photograph of Diana Vreeland that I had not seen before. The great editor pictured at home surrounded by her bibelot is charming.

One wall in the exhibition room was covered by a red version of the Beaton Rose wallpaper. Here it is over "The Art of Self-Promotion" which he was quite adept at.

And a final word from Cecil Beaton:

The show is at the Museum of the City of New York until February 20, 2012; admission is $10.

8 comments:

Reggie Darling said...

Hello Bart,
I'm off to see the show later today, which I've been looking forward to since I first hear of it. Thanks for the review. I've been an admirer of Beaton for many years, and am glad he is getting more and more recognition.
Reggie

Bart Boehlert said...

Reggie, nice to hear from you, I hope you are well!
BB

Reggie Darling said...

Bart,
I have just returned from seeing the CB show, which I enjoyed a lot -- the installation was very well done and clever. My only complaint was the other people visiting the show were practically hollering at each other, to the point that I couldn't concentrate and felt compellled to tell one loudmouth to "keep it down." It's like going to the movies these days, people seem to think they are in their own living rooms and never stop talking or commenting (loudly) on what they're looking at. Other than that, the show was terrific! Reggie

Bart Boehlert said...

Hi Reggie, glad you enjoyed the show. Funny about the noise level. I remember going to Visconti's very long movie "The Leopard" and a couple (older) talked all the way through it - "What did he say?" Challenging -
Best,
Bart

Ella said...

It would have been wonderful to see that show. Birgit Nillson was a great personality and a wonderful opera singer and that costume made for her is really divine.

Margaret said...

Oh dear! Eras, and personas, at its best.

pve design said...

If only I had lived when Mr. Beaton was alive...I think we would have hit it off rather nicely. I do love his aesthetic and sense of humor.
Must get in the city to see this show.
pve

pve design said...

Bart,
I had to laugh at Reggie's comment. Nothing more annoying than someone spewing contents at a film, theater or exhibit....or on a cell phone having a personal conversation. As my sister loves to say, "there is no filter" anymore.
pve