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Elsie de Wolfe

Elsie de Wolfe
Usage Conditions Apply
Sir Cecil Beaton, 14 Jan 1904 - 18 Jan 1980
Elsie de Wolfe, 20 Dec 1865 - 12 Jul 1950
Watercolor and ink with graphite on paper
Sheet: 28.6 x 21.5cm (11 1/4 x 8 7/16")
Mat: 55.9 x 40.6cm (22 x 16")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution Conserved with funds from the Smithsonian Women's Committee
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
© Cecil Beaton Archives
Object number
Exhibition Label
The young British artist Cecil Beaton met and sketched interior designer and international hostess Elsie de Wolfe in New York in the fall of 1929. Although he was four decades younger, he befriended her at once, considering her "the sort of wildly grotesque artificial creature I adore." Just beginning his career as a photographer, Beaton was already writing and drawing for British Vogue. American tastemakers admired his idiosyncratic watercolor and ink drawings. Photographer Edward Steichen, Beaton bragged, "adores my sketches and complimented me upon them being slightly sinister." This image appeared in American Vogue in January 1930, accompanying Beaton's article about the staid social scene after the stock market crash. He thus portrayed de Wolfe-who at age sixty-three had once cartwheeled into a Paris ballroom dressed as an acrobat-as an elegant, sedate fashion maven.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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