Art 101

Fashion Photography

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Fashion Photography

Today exhibited in blockbuster museum exhibitions around the world, fashion photography began in the mid-19th century as a commercial avenue of promoting clothing but has evolved over the years to stand for a distinctive aesthetic of sophisticated, high-toned sexiness, often with an arresting edge—and sometimes without any clothing at all.

Originating in Europe, fashion photography truly hit its stride as an art form in the United States around the turn of the 20th century, in the hands of two men: Condé Nast, the impresario publisher of Vogue and Vanity Fair, and Edward Steichen, who created iconic images for Nast's pages before becoming the chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art. Women's magazines proved to be fertile ground for artistic experimentation—often in the form of high-concept, lavishly produced "spreads"—with Vogue and Vanity Fair attracting legendary photographers from Horst V. Horst to Mario Testino, and Nast arch-rival Harper's Bazaar acting as a launching pad for artists like Richard Avedon (and Andy Warhol).

In recent decades, fashion photography has made new incursions into the world of contemporary art, both in the hands of Pictures Generation artists like Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince and through magazines like W, Pop, V, and Purple that mix art and fashion into a potent, provocative brew. To learn about and collect work by some of the greatest names in fashion photography, explore the fashion-forward artworks in this collection.

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