above: Sir Cecil Beaton with his costume sketch for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady
Born in 1904 in London and coming of age at the peak of the 20s, Cecil Beaton was in love with the worlds of high society, theater, and glamour. Beauty in his hands was transformed into elegance, fantasy, romance and charm.His inspired amateurism led to a following among fashionable debutantes and eventually a full fledged career as the foremost fashion and portrait photographer of his day. He was so attuned to the changes of fashion that his career maintained its momentum for five decades; from the Sitwells to the Rolling Stones. Beaton died in 1980.
Beaton launched his career as a ‘society’ photographer in 1926 with an exhibition in London which won him an immediate contract with Vogue, where he worked for the next thirty years. His style was inspired by figures such as E.O. Hoppe, Edward Steichen and Baron de Meyer, the most successful magazine photographers of the 1910's and 1920's. Beaton’s fascination with glamour and high society prevailed throughout his life and in 1937 he became court photographer to the British Royal Family. He also became a successful stage and costume designer, most notably for 'My Fair Lady' and 'Gigi'.
After the war, Beaton tackled the Broadway stage, designing sets, costumes, and lighting for a 1946 revival of Lady Windermere's Fan, in which he also acted.
His most lauded achievement for the stage was the costumes for Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady (1956), which led to two Lerner and Loewe film musicals, Gigi (1958) and My Fair Lady (1964), both of which earned Beaton the Academy Award for Costume Design. He also designed the period costumes for the 1970 film On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.
Additional Broadway credits include The Grass Harp (1952), The Chalk Garden (1955), Saratoga (1959), Tenderloin (1960), and Coco (1969). He is the winner of four Tony Awards.
He also designed the sets and costumes for a production of Puccini’s last opera Turandot, first used at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and then at Covent Garden.
He also designed the academic dress of the University of East Anglia.