A dazzling series of photographs illustrate the juxtaposition of fashion with print media throughout the 20th Century.

This exclusive exhibition expands on the original version that debuted at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles that only focused on the first few decades of fashion photography. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has expanded that concept in a show of strength to include all the decades of the past century and into the new millennium, expanding the view of the accomplishments of diverse and modern artists.

“Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography” moves the spectrum from homogenized models that defined early 20th Century fads to diverse and modern people and their various contributions.

Vogue Magazine started the trend of fashion photographs followed by Harper’s Bazar (as it was originally spelled) in 1913. Some of the personalities that grace the initial gallery include a Baron Adolph de Meyer photo of Coco Chanel from 1925; Cecil Beaton photographs; and portraits of such important femmes as Anna May Wong, Marlene Dietrich, Josephine Baker and Gloria Swanson.

James Van Der Zee was possibly the first major African-American photographer of note and his candid images of residents of Harlem ring especially true.

The 1930’s gave way to surreal and expressionistic experimentation and Hollywood personalities that transgressed the turbulent war decade to follow and result in the ultimate merger of both halves of the century with Richard Avedon’s 1955 “Dovima with Elephants.” The evening dress is from Dior and the elephant from the Cirque d’Hiver. Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba was the top fashion model of her day, at a time when the term supermodel was unknown to the vernacular of the time.

Moving into subsequent galleries take the view though progressive decades and photographers like Jerry Schatzberg, Irving Penn, Gordon Parks and William Klein.

But a quick turn finds us in the television dominated 1960’s and 1970’s where “black is beautiful” and the seductive power of magazine covers permeates the collective mindset.

Photographers like Herbert Ritts and Bruce Weber take us through the street style of the 1980’s. Don’t forget that Selena was a popular media figure.

The exhibition culminates in imagery from the Vogue September 2018 cover featuring Houston native Beyoncé that marks the first African-American photographer, Tyler Mitchell, to shoot a cover for the supposedly liberal magazine.

This exhibit displays a lot of heat and very little fat.


“Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography” will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston until September 22, 2019.