Avedon exhibit captures glam era

By Carleton Varney

Oh, what a super exhibition it is! I’m talking about the Richard Avedon exhibit at the Norton Museum, which should not be missed.

Beautifully presented, “Avedon Fashion 1944-2000” features much of the iconic photographer’s early work. It includes photographs of model Carmen, who is still beautiful today, and of the late Suzy Parker, who once upon a time starred in a film — The Best of Everything — with another icon, Joan Crawford, who was one of my clients for oh, so many years.

Avedon photographed the best of Hollywood — from Audrey Hepburn to Miss ”Marvelous” Marilyn — and his images of the best of everybody are on view for all Palm Beach to enjoy, so make plans to pop over to South Dixie Highway to catch the show. It runs through May 9.

And don’t forget: The museum has a café, where the lunches and snacks are most enjoyable, and while the atmosphere is a tad museum-austere, there is a lovely serenity about the place.

I also recommend a look-see at the Norton’s gift shop, where you can purchase the exhibit’s official book, Avedon. It might seem a tad pricey at $100, but it’s worth it, as you’ll return through its pages again and again to the Avedon glamour as it appeared in the fashion magazines of the world — Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and all those European pictorials too numerous to name.

For my eyes, the Avedon show is perfect for Palm Beach, where glamour has long reigned — and still reigns. And, I suppose, will reign into eternity.

To say the least, the design world today is often not about oil-painted images but about photographic images. Images in black and white and in colors are found on the walls of commercial and residential interiors around the world.

Many of the finest hotels I visit these days use photographs for wall art — images of landscapes and cityscapes, floral botanicals and details of architectural elements.

Recently, I stayed at The Ritz-Carlton Dallas, where the rooms are subtly bland — there’s no magical color, I’m sorry to report — but the walls, happily for me, were decorated with photographic portraits of the glamorous and celebrated.

Now we all know that the photographs of Ansel Adams are sold at prices that would have been unheard of 20 years ago, and the archives of photographers George Hurrell, Slim Aarons and Fritz Henle make their work available for collectors.

The late photographer Hurrell was known for his glamour portraits of such stars as Jean Harlow, Bette Davis and Vivien Leigh.

The late Slim Aarons built his reputation with society photographs he shot for Holiday Magazine and Town and Country, among others.

The jacket cover of the book Once Upon a Time, has the memorable image of the late CZ Guest standing by her pool at her Palm Beach residence. I always enjoy books featuring Aarons’ photographs, because his pictures have recorded a time in history that I consider the age of true glamour.

As for the work of the late Fritz Henle, who lived on the island of St. Croix, his Caribbean seascape images, as well as those of Pablo Casals, remain vividly etched in my mind.

I own one of Henle’s works, which hangs in my farmhouse in upstate New York. It is a horizontal image of a movie billboard in Puerto Rico, against which an island lady is passing swiftly by with her straw basket filled with groceries. The image is one of contrast — the woman’s native beauty stands out against the billboard’s image of a movie poster featuring a Hollywood glamour girl, namely Joan Blondell, wrapped in white marabou.

Ah, what photographic images do for our psyche and for our homes. In most bookstores here, you can find images by all these famous photographers.

The next time you visit the galleries, think not only about the painters and the sculptors, but consider the photographers of today.

The Holden Luntz Gallery on Worth Avenue is a prime destination for extraordinary art photography.

And, of course, the current and talented American Annie Leibovitz, who shoots for Vanity Fair, is at the top of my talent list, as is my Scottish friend Harry Benson, who has been honored by the Queen Elizabeth II and lives in Wellington.


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