Cecil Beaton arrived to NYC in 1928 with a sketchbook under his arm, a camera in his bag, and a mission to woo Manhattan's upper crust in the same whimsical fashion that he dazzled his native England's ritziest regals.
I've been in love with Beaton's eclectic body of work ever since first viewing his glittering portraits of socialite Paula Gellibrand (Aka; Marquesa de Casa Maury) as a teen. His work felt so modern to me, that I wouldn't have been surprised if you told me he invented Glam Rock. The theatricality and decadence of his creative vision will inspire bright young things for ages to come.
Above: The photo that started my fascination . . . Paula Gellibrand as photographed by Beaton in 1928. Below: Yours truly in front of the whimsically hand-painted entrance mural.
During his years hotel-hopping in Manhattan (from the 1920s through the '60s), he created visual poems for Vreeland at Vogue, wardrobed the Metropolitan Opera, designed book jackets to swoon over, styled Broadway musicals, befriended Warhol, champagned with Monroe, and romanced Garbo. He became creative director of the social-set . . . slaying the city's elite with his lyrical watercolors and sumptuous photography. Beaton was a Renaissance soul of the highest order, deeply inspired by the city's metropolitan razzle-dazzle.
Now through Feb. 20th at the Museum of the City of New York, there is a wonderful collection of Cecil's New York oeuvre on display. Beautifully curated by Donald Albrecht (an acquaintance, as he is a board member of Manitoga, which is across the road from our studio, and a place dear to our hearts), the exhibit is a visual love-letter to Beaton, told through rare photographs, 1st edition books, set design and wardrobe sketches, watercolors, magazine layouts and original costumes. It is an absolute feast for the peepers.
Above: Beaton's colorful apartment in the storied Plaza Hotel, c.1946 (as captured by Dmitri Kessel). Below: My favorite piece in the exhibit . . . Broadway phenomenon, Tallulah Bankhead in watercolor and pencil, c.1932. Beaton later designed her costumes for a production of Antony and Cleopatra in 1937.