Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel was a French fashion designer and business woman. The founder and namesake of the Chanel brand, she was credited in the post-World War I era with liberating women from the constraints of the “corseted silhouette” and popularizing a sporty, casual chic as the feminine standard of style. German-American Fashion Photographer Horst P. Horst began working for Vogue magazine in 1931, and moved to New York in 1937 where he met Coco Chanel, with whom he would collaborate for over three decades. It was during the 1930’s that Horst established his trademark style, which incorporated dramatic lighting and an unparalleled eye for grace that enabled Horst to create images that portray his subjects as emblems of elegance. In his portrait of Coco Chanel, one of his most famous images, he captures a woman who was rarely photographed, and creates a striking composition with her regal profile and the exquisite chair.
Horst P. Horst (born Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann) was one of the towering figures of 20th century fashion photography. Best known for his work with Vogue—who called him “photography’s alchemist”—Horst rose to prominence in Paris in the interwar years, publishing his first work with the magazine in 1931. In the decades that followed, Horst’s experimentations with radical composition, nudity, double exposures, and other avant-garde techniques would produce some of the most iconic fashion images ever, like Mainbocher Corset and Lisa with Harp (both 1939). As The New York Times once described, “Horst tamed the avant-garde to serve fashion.” Though associated most closely with fashion photography, Horst captured portraits of many of the 20th century’s brightest luminaries, dabbling with influences as far-ranging as Surrealism and Romanticism. “I like taking photographs, because I like life,” he once said. “And I love photographing people best of all, because most of all I love humanity.”