The exhibition Dior, the Legendary Images is the newest stage in the Musée Christian Dior’s exploration of the bonds between art and fashion. Since 1947, great photographers have enriched Dior creations with their vision, inspired by the unique style of the fashion house. Photographers construct their dialogue with the world at the juncture between the desire to embody the act of creation within reality and the aspiration for an aesthetic absolute.
DIOR AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Photography contributed to Dior’s worldwide success from the moment the House was founded. On February 12, 1947, American photographer Pat English documented Christian Dior’s first collection, presented in the salons of 30 avenue Montaigne.
Pat English, 1947
The fashion show of Christian Dior's first collection - Spring-Summer 1947: the Bar Suit
CANONS of BEAUTY
The Dior style has continued to fascinate every generation of photographers since. In the postwar years, Richard Avedon, Horst P. Horst, and Clifford Coffin established the canon of Dior iconography: the framing, the lighting, the staging, and the refined poise of the model.
Clifford Coffin, 1948
The Aventure suit, Spring-Summer 1948 Haute Couture collection, Envol line
Then, Irving Penn, Cecil Beaton, Erwin Blumenfeld, Henry Clarke, Peter Knapp, Guy Bourdin, and Helmut Newton shaped the Dior vision of women into an archetype of fashion photography. The genre has been celebrated in contemporary times by Patrick Demarchelier, Peter Lindbergh, Dominique Issermann, Nick Knight, Bruce Weber, and Willy Vanderperre.
« Exhibition curator Florence Müller has brought nearly two hundred prints by fashion’s greatest photographers to Granville. More than sixty haute couture dresses give life to the exchange of ideas between the fashion designer’s dresses and outfits and the photographers’ images, an exchange full of seduction and provocation. »
President of the Présence de Christian Dior association Musée Christian Dior
« Few women, only a handful of privileged clients, models and fashion editors, have had the luxury of being able to actually see, touch, or wear the haute couture dresses that Christian Dior designed from 1947 to 1957. But many women have memories of the photographs of Dior outfits, captured by the likes of Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Henry Clarke, and Erwin Blumenfeld. Published in Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar, these photographs helped bring about the birth of a couturier and the creation of a legend. »
Head of the Photography collection at the Palais Galliera
When comparing the anonymous photographs of Christian Dior as a youth in granville with shots of the couturier at the height of his fame, taken by the greatest photographers, it is striking to see the similarity in attitude: the later images are portraits of a man who, beyond his physical maturity, had not fundamentally changed. He was still a shy and retiring man who did not like to reveal his feelings. He rarely smiled and sometimes displayed the sorrowful expression of shy loners, to whom he related. He made a veiled confession to harboring this temperament in his memoirs in 1956, recalling his youth in granville: “This isolation suited my tastes.”
« Built on a strong aesthetic and cultural foundation, the Dior collections naturally give rise to a body of photographic work that is in harmony with the distinguishing characteristics of the house itself. In the best of such photographs, the photographer not only interprets the work by placing the model in a scene and a role that fit the dress she wears, he also communicates and amplifies the couturier’s vision. »
Curator of the exhibition Dior, the Legendary Images
Granville Museum is housed in the former family home of the designer, an edifice characteristic of the Norman coast. In his youth, Christian Dior would gaze out at sweeping sea views and enjoy with his mother the flowerbeds, pergola, rose garden and sea pines of the ornate garden they laid out together.
Les Rhumbs Villa, childhood home of Christian Dior
When Madeleine Dior first laid eyes on this villa - which resembles more a sturdy little manor than a stylish residence - she decided to make it her own. With a similar strength of conviction to that displayed by her son Christian many years later with regard to the mansion at 30, Avenue Montaigne. Back in 1905, the future designer still an infant, Madeleine persuaded Maurice Dior to purchase the house with the neverending vistas. The property perched above Granville, a mere kilometre outside what was “a sleepy port town for nine months of the year and (in summer turned into) an elegant quarter of Paris”. His was quite a childhood in the isolated confines of the house. Christian would wile away the hours learning by heart the names of plants and flowers from Vilmorin-Andrieux seed catalogues; listening to the women sing hit of the day « L’Hirondelle de Faubourg » in the warmth of the laundry room; gazing up at the ceiling rose in his bedroom. Christian Dior always thought of Granville with “a nostalgia for stormy nights, foghorns, the death knell sounding a funeral and the Norman drizzle in the midst of which (his childhood) was spent”. He tended the flame of Granville for the rest of his days, recreating the spirit of the place in colours (pink and grey), scents (rose and lily-of-the-valley), sturdy, elegant shapes, and an atmosphere of sheltered peacefulness that befits a family home.
Christian Dior's love of flowers and gardens
« The garden that guarded my childhood » is how Christian Dior described the garden of the villa in which he was raised in Granville, Normandy. His mother, Madeleine, was a keen gardener. Christian inherited her love of flowers and was fascinated by the shapes, colours and poetry of this joyous, generous slice of nature. He spent much of his time engrossed in seed catalogues where he learnt by heart the Latin names of the flowers. He delved into landscaping in his teenage years, designing a pool and pergola for the garden of the family home. The young Dior saw the garden as a temple of beauty, calm and contemplation, and his prodigious insight remains to this day a manifesto for landscapers all over the world. He loved flowers most of all. When he became a designer, he wanted them everywhere. Dior dreamt of a world filled with flower-women and attributed floral names to his creations. He endowed with the grace of a rose every one of his dresses, whose meticulous structures and beautiful fabrics and embroidery gave an impression of fragility and infinite beauty. Calices, petals, pistils and stamens rendered in minute detail on evening gowns resembled the work of a brilliant botanist. Between 1947 and 1957 Dior named more than 50 models after roses.
Christian Dior Museum opens at the former family home in Granville
History had in store darker days for Les Rhumbs. The family were staying at Granville when the First World War broke out. They chose not to return to Paris, retreating instead behind the comforting walled safety of the villa and garden. Staunchly loyal to the Allied Forces, this safe haven became one of the first casualties of the Dior family's bankruptcy in the wake of the 1929 crash. The property was auctioned off and the furniture sold piecemeal. The garden was turned into a public park in the 1970s. The estate would not return to Dior hands until almost two decades later.
DIOR, THE LEGENDARY IMAGESGreat Photographers and Dior