Vogue originated in the USA in 1892 as a journal of fashion and society news and it was bought in 1909 by the magazine publisher Condé Nast. Copies of this popular magazine were regularly shipped over to Britain but this became impossible during the First World War. In 1916 British Vogue was launched with great success and was theafter hailed as the leading exponent of fashion, society and the wider world, employing the best photographers, designers and writers and influencing taste throughout the decades. Vogue 100: A Century of Style sets out the best of 100 years of archive material and showcases the development of fashion photography from the formality of the 1920s when stillness was essential to capture the image, to the freedom offered by the digital camera. It also charts the breaking down of class barriers from the austerity years of World War II through to the Swinging Sixties when men and women from working class backgrounds became the leaders of style.
One of the outstanding photographers whose work featured in Vogue was Cecil Beaton whose career was launched in Vogue in the 1920s. He photographed the Bright Young Things whose wild activities filled the gossip columns, the chic Wallace Simpson in the 30s, the devastation of the War years in the 40s, the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II in the 50s and finally there’s a 1968 fashion shot of model Maudie James in front of a painting by David Hockney while he was still painting it.
The exhibition takes you through the content archives decade by decade, then there is the long gallery with a century of covers; beautiful illustrations in the 20s then, as printing technology developed, the iconic colour photographs which maintained Vogue’s success for so long. I knew someone who kept every copy of Vogue since she started buying it in the mid 60s and had a bed specially made to store them underneath. She must be sleeping close to the ceiling by now.
Vogue 100: A Century of Style is at the National Portrait Gallery London, from 11 February - 22 May 2016, sponsored by Leon Max.
Standard price tickets £17, £15.50 concs