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HORST P. HORST (1906 – 1999)

Horst P. Horst (known often as simply “Horst”) was born Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann in Weissenfels-an-der-Saale, Germany.  His parents were Klara and Max Bohrmann, who was a successful merchant.  In the late 1920's, Horst studied at Hamburg Kunstegewerbeschule, leaving there to study in Paris under the famed architect Le Corbusier.

In 1930, he met the half-Baltic, half-American nobleman Baron George Hoyningen-Huene, who was also a photographer.  Horst became Hoyningen-Huene's collaborator, model, and lover.  In 1931, Horst began his association with VOGUE, where he published his first photograph in the November French edition of the magazine.

In 1932, Horst's first exhibition opened in La Plume d'Or in Paris.  The review of the exhibition by The New Yorker critic Janet Flanner made Horst instantly famous.  Horst created a portrait of Bette Davis the same year, which would be the first in a series of celebrities that he would photograph during his lifetime.  Within two years, he had photographed Noel Coward, Yvonne Printemps, Lisa Fonssagrives, Natasha Paley, Cole Porter, and Elsa Schiaparelli.

In 1937, Horst rented an apartment in New York, and while residing there met Coco Chanel, whom Horst would later name as "the queen of the whole thing".  Chanel considered his portrait of her taken in her apartment in Paris to be one of her favorites, and in a grand gesture of appreciation gave him several pieces of her furniture that he admired in her apartment during the sitting.  He would photograph the designer's fashion for three decades, and Chanel would later credit Horst's Tyrolean style as a main inspiration for her iconic suit.

In 1940, Horst applied for United States citizenship, and joined the army on July 2, 1943.  One of the last photographs that he created before the war was his iconic fashion image "Mainbocher Corset", which would become an inspiration to fashion designers for decades and was famously depicted in the music video for Madonna's song "Vogue".  On October of that year he received his United States Citizenship as Horst. P. Horst and became a photographer for the army.  In 1945 he photographed United States President Harry S. Truman, with whom he became friends, and at the invitation of the White House he photographed every United States First Lady in the post-war period. In 1947, Horst moved to Oyster Bay, New York, in a white-stucco buildling that he designed himself based on buildings he had seen during his travels to Tunisia.  In addition to his fashion and portrait career, Horst produced an extensive collection of still-lifes and botanical photographs, a subject that he continued to pursue even in the later years of his life.

In the 1960's he was encouraged by the VOGUE editor Diana Vreeland to begin a series of photographs illustrating the lifestyle of international high society.  These photographs were to be accompanied by articles written by Horst's longtime friend Valentine Lawford, who was a former English diplomat.  He would continue to travel and photograph, and in the mid-1970's he began to work for House and Garden magazine as well as for VOGUE.

Horst’s photographs have been exhibited and collected worldwide.  In 2014, a retrospective exhibition of Horst’s work opened at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the exhibition has since travelled to the McCord Museum in Quebec (Canada), The Netherlands Photo Museum in Rotterdam, and the NRW Forum in Dusseldorf (Germany).

Horst died in 1999 at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. 

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