The Art of Imitation: Edward Steichen’s Modern Fashion Photographs of 1911

The Art of Dress

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 11.42.57 PM Edward Steichen photographs, Art et Décoration magazine, April 1911.

The birth of modern fashion photography is often credited to a spread by Edward Steichen featured in Art et Décoration magazine in 1911. However,  surprisingly little, if any, attention is every given to how Steichen took many of his groundbreaking visual cues from fashion illustration, specifically the work of artists Paul Iribe and Georges Lepape in two luxury, limited-edition fashion albums entitled Les Robes de Paul Poiret (1908) and Les Choses de Paul Poiret vues par Georges Lepape (1911).

Steichen’s photographs, perhaps not surprisingly, are also of the work of the avant-garde couturier Paul Poiret who was always seeking fresh, unorthodox means of marketing his modern fashion designs. Steichen successfully achieved this by allowing mood, atmosphere and artistic license to take precedent over sharply-focused, detailed depictions of the garments for blatant commercial purposes, as was the status quo in fashion photography at the time. Indeed, this was…

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