Photo at right: Horst photographed by Orphanos
Horst moved to Paris while in his early twenties to apprentice with celebrated architect Le Corbusier. Moving in artistic circles, in 1930 he met Russian photographer Baron George von Hoyningen-Huene (1900-1968). Hoyningen-Heune was working for French Vogue at the time, and within a year Horst became his photographic assistant, model – and soon thereafter his lover. With blond hair and a trim, muscular body, Horst was an ideal model, and his relationship with Hoyningen-Huene resulted in his abandoning the pursuit of a career in architecture.
Youthful model Horst posing for Hoyningen-Huene (1931):
Horst in a classical pose photographed by Hoyningen-Huene (1932):
While traveling in England the pair met British Vogue magazine photographer Cecil Beaton, and Horst’s long association with Vogue began in 1931, when one of his photographs appeared in the French edition of the magazine. He was hired by Vogue in 1935, after Hoyningen-Heune quit the magazine and moved to Hollywood. Among their difficulties was Hoyningen-Heune’s jealousy over Horst’s headlong success. Upon Hoyningen-Heune’s departure, Horst began a relationship with film maker Luchino Visconti.
In 1932 Horst’s first exhibition was mounted in Paris, and a glowing review in The New Yorker magazine made him instantly famous. Within three years he had photographed numerous Hollywood stars, high society notables and various and assorted nobility and royalty. At the age of thirty-one Horst took an apartment in New York City, where he met Coco Chanel. He was to photograph her designs for decades to come.
Horst met British diplomat Valentine “Nicholas” Lawford (1911-1991), who was posted in New York, and the two men became lovers in a relationship that lasted until Lawford’s death. Nicholas was to become Horst’s biographer (“Horst, His Work and His World” 1984) and together they adopted and raised a son, Richard J. Horst, who was eventually Horst’s manager and archivist. In 1943 Horst became a U.S. citizen under the name Horst P. Horst, relinquishing his birth name of Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann, although from the beginning of his career he had used just his first name. He served in the U.S. Army as a photographer and became a friend of President Truman, whom he photographed in 1945. Soon thereafter Horst began a series of First Lady portraits for Vogue, from Mamie Eisenhower (1957) through Nancy Reagan (1981).
In 1990 pop star Madonna released a music video of her enormously successful single “Vogue,” in which she posed in recreations of some of Horst’s most recognizable fashion photographs – "Mainbocher Corset" (1939, shot at four in the morning in Paris, above), a portrait of an exhausted model seen from behind, wearing a partially tied corset made by Detolle, as well as "Lisa with Turban" (1940), and "Carmen Face Massage" (1946). Unfortunately Horst had not given permission for his photos to be used, and he expressed his displeasure at receiving no acknowledgment from Madonna. Her tribute music video went right over the heads of most of her younger fans.
Having moved to Oyster Bay on Long Island in 1947, Horst designed a white stucco house that was reminiscent of homes he had seen in Tunisia while traveling with George Hoyningen-Huene. Horst sold an original Picasso painting to buy 15 acres of land from the Tiffany estate to pay for the house and property. Many of the furnishings inside came from his close friend Coco Chanel. While based there Horst shot a large body of work for Vogue and House and Gardens magazines, both Condé Nast publications, and his partner Nicholas Lawford wrote the articles that accompanied the pictures. Horst’s last published photograph appeared in British Vogue in 1991, the year of Lawford’s death. Suffering from failing eyesight and declining health, Horst was at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, at the time of his death at age 93 on November 18, 1999. In 2001 a retrospective of his portraits appeared in the book, “Horst Portraits: 60 Years of Style”. Horst’s work is featured in nine other publications, as well.
Three male nudes:
Maria Callas by Horst:
Still Life by Horst:
Fashion models by Horst:
Baron Niki de Gunzburg by Horst: