This exhibition, which is part of the PhotoESPAÑA section, will take place between May 31 and August 19, 2018 at Fundación Canal. With Joanna Ling and Olivia María Rubio as curators, it brings together 116 portraits by Cecil Beaton of characters from the film industry, art, culture, fashion, high society, and politics made throughout his entire professional career. This showcase brings us closer to the artist’s multidisciplinary vision: Beaton the photographer, the scenographer, and the costume designer for the theater and the big screen, the chronicler of fashion, the writer, and the war correspondent.
Beaton Tells Us About a Time of Great Changes
Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) was one of the most important photographers during the XX century. His artworks summarize six decades of artistic activity and they narrate a time of great changes in history; changes to which the photographer knew how to adapt, showing a great creative and innovative capacity in each period, however different they were. Beaton succeeded in changing people’s perspective towards photography as an artistic discipline, to the point in which, in 1968, the National Portrait Gallery organized in London, for the first time, the retrospective of a living photographer as a way to recognize and pay tribute to this artist’s contributions and work. Truman Capote once said about him: “His visual intelligence is the one of a genius… To listen to Beaton describe, in strictly visual terms, a person, a place, or a landscape, is to attend a fun, savage, or gorgeous, but always and undoubtedly, brilliant. It’s exactly that, the extraordinary intelligence and visual comprehension of his photos, what makes Beaton’s work unique.”
Photography as an Artistic Discipline
The art of photography is the capacity of transforming the inescrutable interior of things into a visual exterior that could even be recordable. On photography, the great masters emphasize both the value of decisive timing as much as knowing how to snap the structure of tension and transform it into the focal point in the picture.
Photography is a scientific fact since it records light and, from that point of view, it’s objective. However, this is not the case when reading photographs, when listening to what they say to each of us: the picture of a pipe ‘is’ neither that pipe nor a pipe, like Magritte would say. The photographic image as a document is a new entity with its own separate reality. The photograph has the hunting force of what’s being captured in an instant, in which many feelings may convey through this capture. The reader of this image is the receptor of those feelings. Therefore, Cecil Beaton’s portraits talk to us about the portrayed people, of their personalities; by carefully watching them, we can know a bit more about them: how they pose, their way of looking, their hands’ positioning, where the photograph’s tension is, it all talks to us about the characters photographed by Beaton. In fact, when visiting the exhibition, I concluded that I would have liked to have met many of them.
Cecil Beaton for Us
Visiting the exhibition will give us the opportunity to introduce extraordinary characters from the XX century into our world. We will talk, for example, about Georgia O’Keeffe, Louise Nevelson, Henri Moore, Bacon, and others. We will choose the one that draws our attention the most among the 116 portraits and we will delve into the life and work of the portrayed character. We will reflect about what the photograph shows us about that character, what are their eyes saying, their hands, the photograph’s composition. This week’s workshop will be about creating a background to portrait one of the participants. We will become photographers and scenographers, then we will hang the outcome of our experiment and we will talk about it. This way, we will learn how to express what “we wanted to show” in the portrait.
Photography: Oscar Rivilla
Conceptual design: Carolina Verd