MURIEL MAXWELL, VOGUE, JULY 1, 1939 HORST P HORST
It is 125 years since the first issue of Vogue graced the newsstands. But it would take 30 years before the first photograph appeared on the cover. The July 1, 1932 issue featured a shot of a girl in a red bathing suit holding a beach ball over her head.
Before that the magazine had relied on such stellar illustrators as Lepape and Carl Erickson to provide cover images, but, as Dodie Kazanjian points out in her introduction to a new book of Vogue covers, that photograph, taken by Edward Steichen, “sounded the death knell of painted illustration”.
Soon, photographers such as Steichen, Cecil Beaton and, here, Horst P Horst commandeered the Vogue cover.
Indeed, there’s an argument to be made that the best Vogue photographic covers are those that date from the 1930s to the 1950s, when cover lines were sparse and the photograph was given plenty of room to breathe. Certainly those were the decades of the concept cover.
In the 21st century, and for some time before, the Vogue cover has been the domain of the celebrity (whether that be Adele or Rihanna or Michelle Obama) and the supermodel (Kate Moss has racked up 31 covers for British Vogue since 1993, including the September 2017 issue). But maybe that’s what we want now.
“Vogue covers still talk to us about ourselves and the world we live in,” suggests Kazanjian.
Strike a pose!
Taken from Vogue: the Covers by Dodie Kazanjian, published by Abrams, priced £45