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Horst P. Horst made a dramatically illuminated photo of the American writer Gertrude Stein in 1946.

Horst P. Horst
Gertrude Stein, 1946

What came first: avant-garde, lifestyle or life itself?

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Horst liked taking photographs because he loved life and his ambition was to photograph the best of what life had to offer because he loved humanity. He had an artistic talent for taking mesmerising photos of artists, fashion and lifestyle photography, always fed with an intuitive eye for form, grace, femininity and elegance, such as the elegantly-composed, dramatically-illuminated photo of the American writer Gertrude Stein.

Stein exerted her influence on the modernism of the 20th century through her literary work and her patronage of avant-garde art. Horst immersed his photographic eye in the world of artists and as a friend of the artists, he was part of it from the very outset. His work bears witness to a plastic and pictorial vision based on Surrealism and Romance. Vogue called him photography’s alchemist.

During his career, Horst continued to experiment with radical composition, subtle nude studies, double exposure and other avant-garde techniques to give photography a place within the visual arts. With Horst, photography comes as an after-image, having experienced the art of his time on a daily basis. In his photos, he shows how the inspiration for creating that art is also present in reality itself.