London, England 1904 – Broadchalke, Wiltshire, England 1980
Miss Edith Sitwell, famous English poetess c.1929 Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph
Cecil Beaton, the son of a prosperous timber merchant, was educated at Harrow and Cambridge – a member, in other words, of the social elite. He is known as a high fashion photographer, and built his career of over fifty years supplying images for Vogue and later Harper’s Bazaar. Beaton was also famous as a portraitist of the rich and famous and of royalty. A parallel career as a set and costume designer informed his photographic style: he often posed his sitters statue-like, theatrically lit and in elaborate and artificial surroundings. The Sitwells – Edith and her younger brothers, Osbert and Sacheverell, all distinguished writers – were old family friends. By 1928 Edith had already had two volumes of her poems published and a third would appear the following year. Her support of Beaton and his memorable studies of her – capturing all the eccentricity and flamboyancy of her personality – helped launch his career.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra