Curator of the exhibition Alexander Liberman, editorial director of Conde Nast Publications, says this about the exhibition: “For over fifty years, the great phoptographers of our time have distilled in the pages of Vogue the essence opf their observation of women. Like an anthropological study of a rare species, this is an extraordinary record of transformation and evolution. There is much to meditate on, as the clear images of photography reveal the contrasts between the transitory and the enduring; sometimes, the artifice makes us more fullly realize the underlying humanity. In all these pictures, the artist in the photographer sought to capture on film the most expressive moments, to convey to the spectator fleeting instants of revelation that imprint on our memory the indelible impact of women, magical and real.”
On both sides of the camera, names are equally illustrious: Richard Avedon studys Cicely Tyson, Catherine Deneuve, and Bette Midler; Cecil Beaton immortalizes Maya Plisetskaya and Gertrude Stein; Horst P. Horst views Ginger Rogers and Gertrude Lawrence; Irving Penn captures the vitality of Sophia Loren and the compassion of Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Edward Steichen records Beatrice Lillie, Marlene Dietrich and Isadora Duncan. And the list goes on.
The “women observed” are usually actresses, dancers, models, or leaders of fashion, but this is not, strictly speaking, fashion photography. Most of the pictures give their subjects a sharply defined identity. Sometimes they suggest personality, sometimes a role conceived by the woman as performer, and at other times, an idea superimposed by the photographer.
This exhibition was originally organized for Saks Fifth Avenue’s 50th Anniversary.