by Alexander Fury


Emulated by everyone from Bruce Weber to Madonna, Horst P Horst still retains his title as fashion photography’s finest

Iconic is one of those words much overused in fashion. Like luxury, or genius. But they’re all applicable – honestly – to the work of Horst P Horst. Sculptural is an appellation applied to his photography, his use of light and shade to transform fabric and the human form alike into monoliths reminiscent of classical sculpture. His influence? See his multitudes of contemporary imitators, his reflections in the work of Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber, and the odd, outright pastiche. Madonna’s “Vogue” video recreating his famous Mainbocher Corset of 1939 in motion image, is the most obvious homage. But by far not the only one.

London’s Victoria & Albert Museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating Horst’s six decades of creativity, encompassing not only his widely-known editorial work but celebrity portraiture, still life and nudes. When it comes to fashion« no only will Horst’s final imagery be displayed, but garments themselves from his heyday – by couture stars such as Lavin. Schiaparelli, Molyneux and Vionnet.

Here, some garments have been captured by Cathleen Naundorf – seemingly breathing life into static mannequins, just as Horst froze their real-life counterparts in static perfection. They reflect the precise palette of Horst’s most famous works, leapt into three-dimensions. And, like Horst’s photography, they seem as relevant this century as they did the last.
Horst: Photographer of Style opens 6 September at the V&A:

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