Cecil Beaton Profile

The days here are as crisp and clear as Granny Smiths and while my body is busy my mind is wandering. I’ve ambled down the path of the Mitford clan and settled in for a nice long visit with Winston Churchill and just when I thought I’d turned the corner and might rejoin the 21st century, I happened upon Cecil Beaton.

Beaton (1904 – 1980) was a creative force in England and the States, primarily known for his photography, but also a set and costume designer, artist and prolific journal writer.

A captivating character, his level of creativity is astounding. Still, while enchanted by his story, I can’t stop looking at the pictures.

And then yesterday on a walk, I began to wonder when the fashion of having your portrait done in profile began to fade.

Mr. Blandings’s aunt, a woman of inestimable taste, has a stunning black and white portrait of herself and her daughter in profile on her dresser.

It’s not a pose most prefer. A view of ourselves with which we are largely unfamiliar. We like to preserve the view that we prepare, the one that we perceive. Full on. Straight ahead. The nose slightly obscured by the energy of the eyes and, in some cases, the halo of hair.

But the world largely sees us from all angles. The jaw weak, the prominent beak, all pieces of a whole that we acknowledge and accept in others but avoid seeing in ourselves.
All images by Cecil Beaton. From top, the photographer’s mother, Sir Laurence Olivier, Lady Diane Cooper, Greta Garbo, all from Cecil Beaton, Memoirs of the ’40s. The photographer’s sisters, Nancy and Baba, and the last image of Beaton himself from The Wandering Years, Diaries: 1922-1939. Second to the last image, Doris Castlerosse from Cecil Beaton, a Biography by Hugo Vickers.
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29 thoughts on “Cecil Beaton Profile

  1. Hello kindred spirit. Lovely images. Yes isn't it funny the way we look at ourselves in the mirror a particular way but in reality noone sees us that way at all. The other thing these lovely photos have in common (apart from the profiles) is that in those days people held their heads high! xoxo

  2. The Mitfords, Churchill, and Beaton: what wonderfully establishment escapism for the start of the cold season. I've lined up Edith Wharton for the very same purpose.

  3. I really must post, a black and white photo from my wedding, I gave the photographer clear instructions to use – "Cecil Beaton" as a guide – I love profiles – and think you should have your profile shot. ( I mean taken) It gives a sort of "Hitchcock"wit to life.
    Package is en route to you, 2nd time is charm.

  4. Mise – I have Churchill's mother's biography on my bedside table as well. I may be reading contemporary fiction when my grandchildren are studying it.

  5. LOVE Cecil Beaton! There is a wonderful out of print (maybe just hard to find) book with all of his "Royal Portraits"- the book is called "The Royal Portraits". The hand painted backdrops are stunning and lots of inspiration in how many of the portraits are styled. No library is complete without it!

  6. Oh, please, a profile view: then I could place my hand under my slightly sagging chin line and no one would be the wiser (maybe). Please more Cecil photos.
    Have a great week.

  7. Wonderful post–a Cecil Beaton anecdote: I remember watching the remake of the Parent Trap with Dennis Quaid & Natasha Richardson in high school and falling in love with a painting that is over Natasha Richardson's character's bed. It is the profile of a woman in a wide-brimmed hat. I was desperate to find out where it was from, but couldn't find anything on the internet. Later, I ended up watching the special edition dvd & it turns out that the it is an original Cecil Beaton painting that he did of Audrey Hepburn when he was working on the costumes for My Fair Lady. The painting belonged to director Nancy Meyers. It is the only thing like it that I have ever seen by Beaton, because one typically comes across his photographs or costume sketches. Has anyone come across any of his paintings online? I would love to see more.

  8. we have a fabulous Cecil Beaton photograph of Marilyn Monroe laying on a silk kimono. It is autographed by Marilyn to my husband: "Todd, you're only 7 and I'll wait for you." Isn't that too amazing? My husband's uncle was her publicist for many years…

  9. I am a fan of the Cecil Beaton black and white pictures!
    And I am so happy to see these wonderful ones on your blog! And like you I am going to look at the Sotheby's picture library immediately!


  10. I guess a lot of faithful Mrs. Blandings readers know this but in the October issue of World of Interiors Hamish Bowles apartment is featured and he owns some of Beaton's work. It's a must see. Lots of fun!

  11. I have an original Cecil Beaton photograph of Max Beerbohm. Just bought a book of Beaton's diary excerpts the other day. He loved Garbo.

  12. I'm in the midst of "The Glass of Fashion" right now. He wrote very well, too.

    ADG, I'm jealous, man. Please come decorate my rooms at the Manse.

  13. One more thing… no one mentioned that Madonna bought Cecil Beaton's home "Ashcombe" in the English countryside. Did you see the Vogue spread of it a few years ago. If my memory serves me???!!!… I THINK Cecil used to dye his sheep pastel colors and Madonna did the same for the photo shoot…. AND I think the layout feature original photos of the home with Madonnas current updates. Did she and Guy Ritchie sell it?

  14. He inspired me when I was a wee teen to really push my photography. Odd how I looked to the past for freshness and originality. Truly a rennaisance man to be admired.

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