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October 12, 2011

Cecil Beaton’s New York

By Marnie Hanel | Books

Marilyn Monroe, 1956. © Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s. Courtesy Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s.

Once described by Jean Cocteau as Malice in Wonderland and by Cyril Connolly as Rip-Van-With-It, Beaton lived a thousand lives through his lens—as a staff photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair, a World War II correspondent, a society snapper and the chronicler of boldfaced names in a boldfaced era. New York City proved to be an enticing playground for the British-born bon vivant. It was here that he forged a friendship with Greta Garbo and Andy Warhol. And captured the Pop art movement. And designed the celebrated costumes for La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera House, which some say out-do his Oscar-winning creations for My Fair Lady.

In Cecil Beaton: The New York Years (Skira Rizzoli), Museum of the City of New York’s curator of architecture and design Donald Albrecht examines the influence of Manhattan on the photographer and the photographer on Manhattan. Packed with previously unpublished letters, costume designs and more than 220 photographs and drawings, the fascinating chronicle aims to document Beaton’s influential relationships and charismatic work. The accompanying exhibition at MCNY opens October 25 and runs through February 20. Rizzoli.com; mcny.org.