About the Publication

  • Edward Steichen. Cover of Vogue. July 1, 1932. Courtesy Condé Nast. © 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    In the first half of the twentieth century, the American magazine Vogue distinguished itself not only for its reporting on the world of haute couture but also by serving as a beacon of culture and a pioneer in the publication of modern photography. Founded in 1892 as a small weekly society journal, the magazine was acquired in 1909 by the publishing entrepreneur Condé Nast, who built it up as the centerpiece of his magazine empire. Believing that a fashion magazine should address an informed, forward-thinking, affluent audience, Nast transformed Vogue; he hired artists and photographers of great talent to illustrate the magazine and published articles about contemporary art, theater, literature, and photography.

    Nast engaged his audience with alluring portraits of celebrities and figures from the Social Register, creating an elite aura. The portraits were always photographs, with more focused compositions and stylized elegance than was usual in the profession. In 1914 Baron Adolf de Meyer became the first official staff photographer; in 1923 he was succeeded by Edward Steichen, chief photographer for both Vogue and Vanity Fair until 1937. Steichen’s Gertrude Lawrence (MoMA 1869.2001), published in Vanity Fair, is similar to his work for Vogue. Horst P. Horst joined the staff in 1932, the year Vogue began replacing the hand-drawn illustrations on its covers with photographs.

    Moving away from the bland pictures of statesmen and head shots of actresses so prevalent in other picture magazines, Vogue took greater risks, featuring photographs that were less conventional. The magazine published the most recent, novel, and formally satisfying work of the day, including Man Ray’s experimental Rayographs the same year they were created (1922), behind-the-scenes candid shots by Erich Salomon (similar to MoMA 1851.2001), and color photographs by Anton Bruehl. Throughout the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s, Vogue continued to showcase the most creative photographers of the era, featuring work by Berenice Abbott, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, George Hoyningen-Huene, Lotte Jacobi, Lee Miller, Tina Modotti, Paul Outerbridge, Charles Sheeler, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Carl Van Vechten, and many others.

    —Audrey Sands

  • Language(s) English
  • Dates Surveyed 1892–1949

Additional Photos

Edward Steichen. Gertrude Lawrence. 1928. Gelatin silver print, 1928–35. 9 7/16 × 7 9/16" (24 × 19.2 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Edward Steichen Estate and gift of Mrs. Flora S. Straus, by Exchange (MoMA 1869.2001). © 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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