Picks and Pans Review: Beaton in Vogue
Cecil Beaton, the photographer and designer, died in 1980. Both these big books celebrate his work. Danziger, author of Interviews With Master Photographers, says that he has seen virtually every photograph Beaton ever took and believes that he was "a forerunner of many of the aesthetic developments of the medium." But the impression a reader of Beaton (Holt, paper, $14.95) gets is that Beaton simply was the best ever at making people look good. Sweet little Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, never appeared more grand than when Beaton posed her as Sargent or Whistler might have. The weird looking Edith Sitwell gives off a remarkable beauty. Comic Buster Keaton is handsome and sad, and the picture of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor on their wedding day, framed in an ornately carved window, is the most evocative picture ever of that often-photographed pair.
Ross worked at Vogue magazine, and the volume she has written (Potter, $40) is a far more elegant production. A few pictures appear in both books, but this bigger volume includes some color photographs (undistinguished), a few deft caricatures, sketches, a couple of watercolors, and 44 articles Beaton wrote for Vogue. His style is fey: "Charm is not a word that is used very much today, but charm is still a power of fascination and David Hockney has it." Picasso, Beaton notes, insisted that Beaton kiss him. This book is just as Beaton himself says of Palm Beach: "But how artificial and theatrical it all is!" Danziger portrays Beaton as a serious photographer; the Ross volume is a lavish tribute to a clever dilettante.