Horst P. Horst

(Germany, United States of America 14 Aug 1906 – 18 Nov 1999)

Helen Bennett Cartier jewels

Not on display
Further information

Horst P Horst was born in Germany and studied architecture at Hamburg’s Kunstgewerbeschule, a school of applied arts, under the direction of Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. While a student, Horst wrote to the celebrated modern architect Le Corbusier and was invited to study at his atelier in Paris briefly in 1930 before turning his attention to Paris. His first exhibition in Paris was favourably reviewed by Janet Flanner, the Paris correspondent for the ‘New Yorker’, which brought him to the attention of Condé Nast. In 1932 he was apprenticed to George Von Hoyningen-Huene at the Paris ‘Vogue’ studios who he had previously worked for as a model. Horst became chief photographer in 1934, when Hoyningen-Huene left to work for ‘Harper’s Bazaar’, and divided his time between the Paris and New York studios before settling in New York with the outbreak of the Second World War during which he served as a technical sergeant for the US army.

Horst responded to the influence of Hoyningen-Huene’s cool classicism by developing a more ornamental style which often incorporated surrealist effects such as exaggerated shadows, disembodied heads and limbs, and distorted perspectives. While he worked primarily as a fashion photographer, Horst’s output also includes architectural interiors, portraits and abstract scenes from nature. In all his work Horst demonstrates an astute sensitivity to composition, beauty and artifice. His constructed sets are illusionist spaces that often introduce elements of trompe l’oeil, a fact that is augmented by the inclusion of props like wax models and statuettes. While Horst was not directly involved in surrealism, and predominantly worked in the commercial field, he was connected to Jean Cocteau and was an acquaintance of Salvador Dali. He introduced a surrealist inflection to his studio shots and played with the aesthetic dimension of the uncanny. Horst’s deference to classicism was informed by his close study of Greek sculpture and manifests through a preoccupation with posture and spatial arrangement. He paid particular attention to the positioning of his model’s hands. Further heightening the sense of refined elegance and luxury that his photographs possess is his use of platinum palladium printing which provides a great range of subtle tonal variations, especially silvery greys which enhance the sheen of skin, fabrics, jewels and fur.

gelatin silver photograph
24.2 x 19.2 cm image; 35.4 x 27.3 cm sheet
Signature & date

Signed and dated l.centre verso, pencil "HORST P HORST 1935". Signed l.r. sheet, pencil "Horst".

Gift of Edron Pty Ltd - 1996 through the auspices of Alistair McAlpine
Accession number
© Estate of Horst P. Horst