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Jun 30 - Oct 12

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museun
Paseo del Prado 8
  • Paolo Roversi, Gemma Ward, Paris, 2004 ©Paolo Roversi – “Vogue Like a Painting”

  • Erwin Olaf, Vogue Netherlands, 2013 ©Erwin Olaf – “Vogue Like a Painting”

  • Michael Thompson, Carmen Kass as Zurbarán’s Santa Isabel, 2000 ©Michael Thompson – “Vogue Like a Painting”


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“Vogue: Like a Painting” exhibition at Thyssen Museum, Madrid

A new exhibition at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museun in Madrid explores the parallelisms between fashion photography and art, featuring more than 60 photographs that are directly or indirectly inspired by famous paintings. Titled “Vogue: Like a Painting”, the exhibition take us into a journey into Vogue’s archives, displaying works by photographers that are famous for taking an arty approach to fashion, among them Irving Penn, Annie Leibovitz, Tim Walker, Paolo Roversi, Steven Klein, David Sims, Erwin Olaf, Michael Thompson, Mario Testino and Peter Lindbergh. Debra Smith, the curator of the exhibition that spent more than two years exploring Vogue’s archives, explains that the featured photographs bear characteristics that are traditionally found in paintings: theatrical settings, dramatic chiaroscuro, carefully devised compositional schemes and special emphasis on the beauty of the figures, their poses and the décor. At the same time, what serves as a common thread in these works is a sense of a-temporality in the models’ poses that goes far beyond fashion trends, a kind of “mental time lapse in which everything is very, very still”.

The exhibition features an impressive variety of photos, from portraits and landscapes to interiors and still-lifes, many of them imitating genres like British 18th century group portraits or portraying women en deshabillé. Others are inspired by the Renaissance and Rococo or refer directly to masterpieces of Zurbarán, Hogarth, Millais, Sargent, Gauguin, Dalí, Magritte and Hopper. Last, but not least, there are also some more literal interpretations of the exhibition’s theme, including photos that recreate pictorial textures or feature models whose bodies are painted as if they were human canvases. Taking it a step further, the exhibition also includes a series of fashion ensembles that reflect the exhibition’s theme, among them a Valentino dress that seems to have been taken out of a Renoir painting and a Guo Pei gown, titled “Queen Orchid”, which took two years to be made.

Yolanda Sacristán, Editor-in-chief of Vogue Spain, explains that “Vogue was the forerunner of fashion photography when, in the 1920s, it began to replace illustrated front covers with photographic images by artists as revolutionary as Edward Steichen, who had been experimenting with fashion photography since 1911. It was he, together with other great Vogue photographers – principally Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst and Irving Penn – who transformed the genre into an exceptional art form, paving the way for modern photography.” “Vogue: Like a Painting” is held with the support of Bulgari, a brand that has always maintained a close relationship with art, and is accompanied by an extensive exhibition catalogue, featuring all sources of inspiration in detail.