Louise Dahl-Wolfe (1895–1989) is one of the most important women photographers of the 20th century. Her work in the thirties, forties and fifties brought an informal and contemporary approach to fashion that had enormous influence on Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and the other great photographers who followed. A uniquely American artist, this is the first major survey of her work in the UK and is timed to coincide with a resurgence of interest in female photographers. The exhibition features over 100 photographs spanning three decades, from 1931 to 1959, and presents the work of couture designers Chanel, Balenciaga and Dior, as well as American fashion innovators Claire McCardell and Clare Potter.
The exhibition will also present a significant body of portraiture by Dahl-Wolfe. These portraits capture literary figures such as W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Jean Cocteau, Edith Sitwell, Colette and Carson McCullers. She also documented fashion designers; and a major portfolio of Hollywood stars from Bette Davis, Orson Welles and Vivien Leigh in the 1930s to James Cagney and Veronica Lake in the 1940s.
A key focus of the exhibition is Dahl-Wolfe’s 22 years as the leading contributor to Harper’s Bazaar, from 1936 to 1958, working with editor Carmel Snow, legendary fashion director Diana Vreeland and the designer Alexey Brodovitch. ‘From the moment I saw her first colour photographs, I knew Bazaar was at last going to look the way I had instinctively wanted,’ declared editor Carmel Snow.