KIN­DRED SPIR­ITS

Ahead of an auc­tion of Au­drey Hep­burn’s pos­ses­sions, we re­call the cre­ative chem­istry be­tween the ac­tress and Richard Ave­don at Bazaar

Harper's Bazaar (UK) - - Contents -

The cre­ative col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween pho­tog­ra­phers and their muses has long elec­tri­fied and en­riched the pages of fash­ion mag­a­zines. David Bai­ley en­shrined Jean Shrimp­ton; Irv­ing Penn anointed his wife, Lisa Fon­ssagrives; Mario Testino put Gisele Bünd­chen on a pedestal; Nor­man Parkinson had Car­men Dell’Orefice. But the al­most sym­bi­otic and ar­guably most fa­mous cou­pling of all was the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Richard Ave­don and Au­drey Hep­burn, as played out on the pages of Harper’s Bazaar in the 1950s. Af­ter her de­but in the 1953 movie Ro­man Hol­i­day, for which she won an Os­car, Hep­burn be­came a dar­ling of Harper’s Bazaar. Ave­don, then the mag­a­zine’s prin­ci­pal fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher, brought her to the at­ten­tion of its fash­ion edi­tor Diana Vree­land, who was al­ways on the prowl for a fresh new face. Hep­burn’s bowled her over.

Ac­cord­ing to Robert Wold­ers, Hep­burn’s long­time com­pan­ion in the last pe­riod of her life, Vree­land and the young ac­tress be­came good friends. ‘They im­me­di­ately recog­nised some­thing in each other,’ he says, ‘and felt as if they had known each other for years. In fact, Diana would visit us of­ten in Switzer­land. Au­drey many times said that were it not for Diana and Dick [Ave­don], she never would have had the early ex­po­sure that she re­ceived.’

Ave­don’s first cover of Hep­burn for Bazaar was in April

1956. Al­most hid­den un­der a straw hat and wear­ing a flower-print dress and scarf, she looked like the per­fect in­génue. Many more cov­ers and fea­tures fol­lowed – so much so that it seemed as if the pair be­longed to the mag­a­zine (and pos­si­bly each other). But they were spir­i­tu­ally, rather than ro­man­ti­cally, in­volved.

This re­la­tion­ship be­tween pho­tog­ra­pher and muse was fic­tion­alised in Funny Face, the 1957 mu­si­cal loosely based on Ave­don’s ca­reer at Bazaar. In the movie, Ave­don is Dick Av­ery (Fred As­taire) and Vree­land is Mag­gie Potts (the char­ac­ter ac­tress Kay Thomp­son ). Av­ery’ s muse is none other than Au­drey Hep­burn as Jo Stock­ton, a dowdy as­sis­tant in a book­shop whom Av­ery and Potts take to Paris and trans­form into a swan. It was Hep­burn’s first mu­si­cal role af­ter such suc­cesses as Ro­man Hol­i­day and Sab­rina. She once again lit up the screen.

Their most am­bi­tious story for Bazaar was in Septem­ber 1959, an 18-page port­fo­lio that was cin­e­matic in its ap­proach. Shot in Paris, it fea­tured Hep­burn, her then hus­band Mel Fer­rer, the silent-screen co­me­dian Buster Keaton and Si­mone, a lit­tle white cat. Thir­teen de­sign­ers dressed Hep burn, Cha nel,Dio rand Madame Grès among oth­ers.

Of course, Hep­burn wasn’t the only woman cul­ti­vated by Ave­don, who was then at the height of his ca­reer. The mod­els Suzy Parker, Do­rian Leigh and Dovima all worked with him, and of­ten. But no one sparked his cre­ativ­ity more than Hep­burn. Theirs was a part­ner­ship built on mu­tual trust, each bring­ing out the best in the other.

When Ave­don was awarded by the Coun­cil of Fash­ion De­sign­ers of Amer­ica in Jan­uary 1989, Hep­burn pre­sented the Life­time Achieve­ment honour to him. ‘For Richard ,’ she said ,‘ I’ ve hap­pily swung through swings, stood in clouds of steam, been drenched with rain and de­scended end­less flights of stairs without break­ing my neck. Only with Richard have I been able to shed my in­nate self-con­scious­ness in front of the cam­era.’ And all for Harper’s Bazaar.

To that, Ave­don replied in an un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally hum­ble way: ‘I am and for ever will be dev­as­tated by the gift of Au­drey Hep­burn be­fore my cam­era…[she] sets a stan­dard that has never been sur­passed or even equalled.’

Hep­burn’s dear friend and favourite cou­turier Hu­bert de Givenchy once said: ‘There is not a woman alive who doesn’t dream of look­ing like Au­drey Hep­burn.’ The truth is she looked el­e­gant in al­most ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing the habit that cov­ered her head to toe in The Nun’s Story.

For all the full­ness of her life, Hep­burn had a rel­a­tively short ca­reer: 27 films, most of them squeezed into the 1950s and 1960s. She left Hol­ly­wood to be­come a full-time mother, which she con­sid­ered to be the great­est role of her life. Her two mar­riages ended in divorce but her love for her chil­dren was al­ways first and fore­most. And her plea­sures were sim­ple, even in what she liked to eat and cook. In her son Luca Dotti’s re­mem­brance of her, Au­drey At Home , he wrote that she had three favourite foods: ‘Pasta. Pasta. And Pasta.’

She tried to avoid pub­lic­ity, spend­ing most of her time in Rome or Switzer­land. But through­out her re­tire­ment and even in death, the press still couldn’t get enough of her. The lat­est show­case oc­curs in Lon­don in Septem­ber, when Christie’s King Street will hold an auc­tion of Hep­burn’s per­sonal items: ap­parel, film scripts an­no­tated with her favourite blue pen, por­traits by renowned pho­tog­ra­phers (such as Ce­cil Beaton and Steven Meisel), movie stills, let­ters and other mem­o­ra­bilia. Sanc­tioned by Hep­burn’s sons Sean Fer­rer Hep­burn and Luca Dotti, both of whom live in Italy, the col­lec­tion will be auc­tioned live on 27 Septem­ber, and on­line from 19 Septem­ber un­til 3 Oc­to­ber. Yet for those who are un­able to land a cher­ished lot – a pair of her dainty, worn bal­let pumps, per­haps – the films re­main.

When I think about Hep­burn, as I of­ten do, I re­call an im­age from the mo vie Green Man­sions. It is far from her finest work, but I be­lieve it nonethe­less cap­tures Hep­burn’s spirit. As Rima, a jun­gle sprite who dwells in the South Amer­i­can rain­for­est, she wears noth­ing more than a slip of a dress made of bark (Givenchy, where were you?). In one scene, her lead­ing man Tony Perkins stares at her in won­der and mur­murs: ‘I see you stand­ing still in the sun­light, then slip­ping in and out of the woods. You are like all the beau­ti­ful things in this wood – the flower, the but­ter­fly, the birds sing­ing in the trees, the soft green leaves. When I look at Rim a, I seethe mall .’ Rim a. Au­drey. They seem to be one and the same – un­earthly, eter­nal and un­for­get­table.

A pre­view of the sale will be on dis­play at Christie’s from 23 Septem­ber (www.christies.com/au­drey­hep­burn).

No one sparked Ave­don’s cre­ativ­ity more than Hep­burn. Each brought out the best in the other

This page and op­po­site: Au­drey Hep­burn in Bazaar, pho­to­graphs by Richard Ave­don A pair of Au­drey Hep­burn’s shoes from the auc­tion

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