Fashion Photography at the MFA

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Photos from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Fashion in Photos
The MFA made a serious effort to add to its fashion photography holdings around 2000, thanks to director Malcolm Rogers, who had a particular interest in the subject. Under his leadership, the Museum was able to acquire a major archive of Herb Ritts, as well as important works by Baron De Meyer, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Deborah Turbeville, and others. This selection represents some of the highlights.

Woman and Mirror
Cheri-Rousseau and Glauth
1910

The photographing of clothing fashions was first undertaken in Paris in the late nineteenth century, and the earliest images tended to be rather static portrayals of socialites and actresses. Cheri-Rousseau and Glauth, the firm that made this photograph, specialized in making photographic portraits and fashion plates for magazines such as La Mode Practique. In an attempt at a more natural pose, this model in a diaphanous 1910s dress is shown adjusting her fashionable oversized picture hat in the mirror.

Mrs. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, in a Costume by Leon Bakst
Baron de Meyer
1913

The Pictorialist photographer Baron de Meyer exploited atmospheric soft-focus in his effort to document fashions in an expressive manner. One of the first projects that he undertook after moving from Europe to America at the outbreak of the First World War was to photograph Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt and founder of the Whitney Museum. For the occasion she wore a harem ensemble designed for her by the celebrated Russian costume and theatre designer Léon Bakst. The Orientalist fashions associated with the Ballets Russes that swept through Paris in the 1910s had a profound effect on couture designers of the period, and Paul Poiret, Jeanne Lanvin, and Callot Soeurs, among others, showed boldly graphic and vividly colored fashions inspired by the East.

Fashion Shooting, Vogue Studio, Paris
George Hoyningen-Huene
1931

It is unusual to come across behind-the-scenes photographs of fashion shoots from the early part of the 20th century, such as this one. Chief photographer at Vogue’s Paris studio from the mid 1920s to the mid 1930s, George Hoyningen-Huene recorded a moment in which the influential editor Carmel Snow adjusted the dress of Lee Miller, the well-known American model who was also a photographer herself, and the mistress of the Surrealist artist Man Ray.

Josephine Baker, for the Ziegfeld Follies
Murray Korman
1936

A photographer of the New York stage, Murray Korman made this glamour portrait of the celebrated African-American performer Josephine Baker when she appeared in the city in 1936.

The Tarot Reader
Irving Penn
1949

Irving Penn was one of the most important fashion photographers of the mid-twentieth century, and the influential chief photographer of Vogue for many years.

The poetic elegance and quiet contemplation in this work is conveyed through his precise recording of sitters’ gestures and a subtle range of tones. The Tarot Reader was created for illustration in the October 15, 1949 issue of the magazine.

Alberta Tibuzzi, model, New York
Hiro
1966

Hiro’s photographs are distinctive for their playful mod set-ups and crisp geometry. His images have a futuristic quality befitting of the 1960s period. Used for the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1967, the image features a hooded, sleeveless crepe burnoose designed by American designer Halston, who experimented with ethnic-inspired patterns and styling before his better-known minimalist designs of the 1970s.

Twiggy
Gosta Peterson
1968

Gosta Peterson photographed the ultra-thin Twiggy in double exposure in 1967, when she was being celebrated as a superstar of the swinging sixties.

Twiggy helped to popularize the mini-skirt and her bold eye make-up and elongated lashes complement the graphic nature of her black dress and hat. This image was used in The New York Times Magazine on April 9, 1967.

Jean Muir with Friends
Deborah Turbeville
1975

Deborah Turbeville grew up in the Boston area and was originally an editor at Harper’s Bazaar and Mademoiselle. She infused this portrayal of the British designer Jean Muir and associates, taken for a Vogue feature on talented European designers, with psychological ambiguity.

Brideshead I
Denis Piel
1983

In Denis Piel’s take on fashion as vainglorious display, two fashionable characters shun each other.

Versace Dress, Back View, El Mirage
Herb Ritts
1990

Herb Ritts balanced clean, sinuous shape and pattern in his sleek evocation of a dress by Gianni Versace, worn by Christy Turlington and published in Versace’s September 1990 catalogue.

More to discover

See more from the MFA's collection by viewing our exhibitions in 20th Century Fashion, 21st Century Fashion, Fashion Accessories, and Fashion Through the Ages.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Credits: Story

Cover image:
Herb Ritts, Versace Dress, Back View, El Mirage, 1990. Photograph, gelatin silver print. 2000.854. Gift of Herb Ritts. © Herb Ritts Foundation. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

In order:
Gösta Peterson, Twiggy, 1968 (printed 1995). Photograph, gelatin silver print. 2006.1958. Gift of Jesse H. Wilkinson Jesse H. Wilkinson Fund. Gösta Peterson. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Cheri Rousseau and Glauth, Woman and Mirror, about 1910. Gelatin silver print. 2006.1960. Museum purchase with funds donated by Estrellita Karsh in memory of Yousuf Karsh. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Baron Adolf De Meyer, Mrs. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, in a Costume by Leon Bakst, 1913. Photograph, gelatin silver print. 2004.2077. John H. and Ernestine A. Payne Fund. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

George Hoyningen Huene, Fashion Shooting, Vogue Studio, Paris, 1931. Photograph, gelatin silver print. 1979.20. Sophie M. Friedman Fund. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Murray Korman, Josephine Baker, for the Ziegfeld Follies, 1936. Photograph, gelatin silver print. 2010.449. Gift of Leon and Michaela Constantiner. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Irving Penn, The Tarot Reader,1949, printed 1984. Photograph, gelatin silver print. 2007.224. Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Hiro (Yasuhiro Wakabayashi), Alberta Tibuzzi, model, New York, October 28, 1966, printed in 2001. Photograph, chromogenic print. 2002.159. Gift of the artist. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Gösta Peterson, Twiggy, 1968 (printed 1995). Photograph, gelatin silver print. 2006.1958. Gift of Jesse H. Wilkinson Jesse H. Wilkinson Fund. Gösta Peterson. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Deborah Turbeville, Jean Muir with Friends, 1975. Photograph, toned gelatin silver print. 2006.1950. Gift of Jesse H. Wilkinson Jesse H. Wilkinson Fund. Photograph Deborah Turbeville. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Denis Piel, Brideshead I, about 1983. Photograph, chromogenic print. 2006.1951. Gift of Jesse H. Wilkinson Jesse H. Wilkinson Fund. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Herb Ritts, Versace Dress, Back View, El Mirage, 1990. Photograph, gelatin silver print. 2000.854. Gift of Herb Ritts. © Herb Ritts Foundation. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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