Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

In Defence Of Cecil Beaton

This review annoyed me. Cecil Beaton was an artist with a very distinct vision of the world. He saw it as a game of masks (which it is) and rather good fun (which it can be). To bang him about the head because he wasn't also a social realist is fatuous. Some people photograph duchesses, others photograph dossers. What's so wrong with that? Call it a division of labour. 

It's a fundamental mistake to suppose an artist's work trivial just because his subjects are. (That Watteau, what a lightweight!) Beaton was one of the few photographers in the history of the medium whose best work is immediately recognisable as his own and no-one else's. He left us a wonderful- unrivalled- gallery of portraits of mid-century poseurs, from Edith Sitwell to Mick Jagger. He also (but Conrad doesn't know or acknowledge this) had a very good war.
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