Cecil Beaton


Sir Cecil Beaton (1904-1980)

(sir) Cecil Beaton was a British photographer known for his fashion photography and war photography in the 1920’s and 1930’s. His early success was largely due to his skills in fashion photography, however Cecil had also been known in later years for his contributions to theatrical work and became a well known costume designer for various stage productions.


Portrait of Queen Elizabeth ii with Prince Andrew in her arms.

Perhaps one of the more notable examples of Cecil’s brand of photography is the above picture, taken by Cecil of Queen Elizabeth ii; since any photos of the Queen are naturally expected to be of high quality and a great degree of trust must be put into any photographer taking any such picture of British royalty. Cecil is known for taking photos of British royalty, and was even invited to take photos during Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. There are actually two influential figures in the portrait above, one of them, Prince Andrew, just hasn’t had the chance to grow up yet. The proper name for Cecil Beaton is Sir Cecil Beaton; as he was knighted in 1972 by Queen Elizabeth.


Marilyn Monroe as shot by Cecil Beaton

The fashion photographer is also known for his portraits of celebrities, notably the above photograph of Marilyn Monroe. A quote by Cecil which is relevant to this particular photograph would be “How imperceptibly, but quickly, our views on beauty fluctuate!” (Cecil Beaton) since this particular photo by Cecil is portraying a woman who arguably changed society in regards to the common perception of beauty.


Dame Julie Andrews (1959) by Cecil

Cecil became known in fashion photography for capturing detailed and interesting portraits that show the personality of the subject. The previous photos were examples of his work in fashion, however, Cecil is also known for his war photography.


Photo of Flight Lieutenant David Donaldson taken by Cecil

Cecil began taking photos of World War 2 while working for the British Ministry of Information. During this time he observed the battles in England, Africa, and the Middle East in an effort to document the war. He was especially known for his photo of Elaine Dunne- a hospitalized 3-year-old air-raid victim. This particular photo even made it to the front page of the Life magazine in September 23, 1940. (as shown below)


While his photography generally consisted of  war and fashion genres, Cecil had a passion for the theatre, or more accurately, all forms of art. Cecil was a known diarist, amateur home interior designer, painter, as well as a costume and stage designer. For his costume work, Cecil had even received Tony Awards for his contribution to shows such as My Fair Lady (1957). Sadly, his career ended when he suffered a heart attack January 18, 1980, at his mansion in Wiltshire England. I find it personally fascinating that he was a man of so many talents, and was in fact so awesome that he was respected even among British royalty. I believe that photos taken by him would be highly interesting to those who are fascinated by history and historical figures; since the majority of Sir Cecil’s photography features notable figures and events in British and world history alike. Cecil’s photographs have the ability to show viewers a truly lively amount of detail and personality from the subjects he uses, and it is because of this that I was inspired to write about this photographer.

Author: sszramka



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