My Sister, Baba
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- About the Artist
- About this Photograph
Gelatin silver print mounted to period board
Artist's stamp and Sotheby Parke Bernet's studio stamp, in ink, and annotated, "Baba Beaton", in pencil, au verso
Annotated, "#9 / Cecil Beaton / My sister Baha / 1922", in pencil, au mount recto
Annotated, "#140", "184", in pencil, au mount verso
Printed circa 1922
Cecil Beaton (1904 – 1980) was one of the leading British photographers of the twentieth century. Beaton’s early studio portraits of debutantes and celebrities often involved elaborate theatrical backdrops, and helped define the image of the ‘Bright young thing’. Beaton was also an acclaimed designer for film and the stage, including My Fair Lady (1956), the musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion. He won three Oscars for costume and art direction for the film version of My Fair Lady (1965) and for Gigi (1958).
– Source: National Portrait Gallery, UK
Cecil Beaton’s sisters, Barbara (“Baba”) and Nancy, were the earliest subjects to stand in front of this artist’s camera. Made when the photographer was just 18, and Baba only 10, all the elements of Beaton’s signature style are already on display in this tender portrait.
In his 1930 book, The Book of Beauty, Beaton could be describing the print shown here when he talks about his sister Baba:
“Baba is too wise to be young, and has the repose of archaic sculpture. She is like a Giotto painting with her Classical features and limp spun hair like a mediaeval page’s, and though she is diminutively proportioned, her little figure is so elongated that, on her, materials fall in vertical folds like the flutings on a Grecian column.”
This is a special item that firmly predicts Beaton’s place among the most important portrait photographers of the last century.