Beaton was a man of many talents in the decorative arts and had designed both sets and costumes for the stage. But his profession was that of photographer and his career spanned six decades, until his death in 1980. He first became interested, through picture postcards of society women and actresses, when he was a youth and became a staff photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines in the 1920s.
Beaton pursued celebrities for portraits and later, when he was a celebrity himself, celebrities pursued him for their portraits. He was the favorite photographer of the British Royal family and a personal friend of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. His portraits of Elizabeth II and her sister, Princess Margaret, when they were beautiful young women are among his most celebrated work.
The show includes photographs of such diverse personalities as the fashion model Twiggy, Edith Sitwell, Orson Welles, Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, the Rolling Stones, Johnny Weissmuller, Pablo Picasso, Gary Cooper, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
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