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Defining an Era of Elegance and Glamour: Edward Steichen Photographs at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Defining an Era of Elegance and Glamour:
Edward Steichen Photographs at the Art Gallery of Ontario

“Take good photographs, and the art will take care of itself.”
—Edward Steichen

(TORONTO, ON: July 30, 2009) From September 26, 2009 to January 3, 2010, the Art Gallery of Ontario will host an exhibition that proves glamour never goes out of style. Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, the Condé Nast Years, 1923 –1937 presents 200 beautifully preserved gelatin silver prints from the Vogue and Vanity Fair Condé Nast Archive and brings them to Canada for the first time.

Edward Steichen’s black-and-white fashion and celebrity images defined glamour in the 1920s and ‘30s, and they still do today. As the chief photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair, Steichen filled the pages of Condé Nast’s flagship magazines with brilliant and unforgettable images — transforming fashion into high art as he photographed the collections of leading houses such as Poiret, Chanel, Lanvin, Grès and Schiaparelli. He immortalized hundreds of luminaries, from writers and artists to politicians and actors — including George Bernard Shaw, Noel Coward, Martha Graham, Amelia Earhart, Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper and Joan Crawford.

When Steichen first took the job with Condé Nast, he set off quite a furor. He was already a well- established figure in photography’s fine arts movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and his move to the world of magazines was viewed by many as a betrayal. Yet Steichen believed that photographs constituted a powerful new form of communication — and the pages of Vogue and Vanity Fair provided an irresistible platform.

“Steichen posed his subjects in striking environments, lit them dramatically and coaxed from them a vitality that the photographs seem barely able to contain,” explained Sophie Hackett, AGO’s Assistant Curator, Photography. “His photographs are by turn mischievous, languid, witty and graceful. He pioneered a new visual language of glamour, profoundly shaping the look of celebrity and fashion to this day.”

“Edward Steichen set out to ‘make Vogue a Louvre,’” said Matthew Teitelbaum, the AGO’s Michael and Sonja Koerner director, and CEO. “And with this exhibition of his fashion photographs and celebrity portraits, we recognize his innovative work.”

“The volunteers of the AGO enjoy supporting art and sharing their knowledge and time with visitors,” said AGO Volunteer President Anne Marie Smith. “We are proud to sponsor the Edward Steichen exhibition with funds from the Volunteer Endowment Trust. The glamour and elegance of the photographs make Steichen's work easy to share.”

On view from September 26, 2009 to January 3, 2010, Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, the Condé Nast Years, 1923 –1937 is a rare opportunity to see the work of a man who knew that photographs could make us swoon.

Accompanying the exhibition is a 288-page publication, Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, the Condé Nast Years, 1923 –1937, by William A. Ewing and Todd Brandow (Minneapolis: FEP Editions, 2008) – with essays by Musée de l´Elysée director William A. Ewing and curator Nathalie Herschdorfer, ICP curator Carol Squiers, and Kunsthaus Zurich curator Tobia Bezzola. Soft cover retails for $70 at shopAGO.

Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, the Condé Nast Years, 1923 –1937 is curated by William A. Ewing, Director, Musée de l´Elysée; Todd Brandow, Executive Director, Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography; and Nathalie Herschdorfer, Curator, Musée de l’Elysée.

The exhibition has been organized by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis, and the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

Generously supported by the Volunteers of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

A Complementary Show at the ROM

Immerse yourself in the art of celebrity photography. Augment a viewing of the Steichen show with a visit to the ROM’s simultaneous exhibition, Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913–2008, featuring 160 classic images from Vanity Fair magazine’s early years and after its re-launch in 1983.

Presented by: the Bay

About the AGO

With a permanent collection of more than 79,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. After a stunning redesign by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the transformed AGO opened its doors to the public in November 2008 amid international acclaim. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase made of wood and glass running the length of two football fields along the Gallery’s façade; and the iconic central staircase, spiraling up through the roof of Walker Court and into the new Contemporary galleries above. From the extensive Group of Seven collection to the dramatic new African Art Gallery; from David Altmejd's monumental installation The Index to Peter Paul Rubens' masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, a highlight of the acclaimed Thomson Collection — there is truly something for everyone at the AGO.

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For AGO media information or visuals, please call:
Sean O’Neill, 416-979-6660, ext. 403,
Antonietta Mirabelli, 416-979-6660, ext. 454,

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