A Collection of Photos by Pioneer Ilse Bing (1899 – 1998)

The German avant-garde and commercial photographer produced pioneering monochrome images during the inter-war era.

Her move from Frankfurt to the burgeoning avant-garde and surrealist scene in Paris in 1930 marked the start of the most notable period of her career. She produced images in the fields of photojournalism, architectural photography, advertising and fashion, and her work was published in magazines such as Le Monde Illustre, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Respected for her use of daring perspectives, unconventional cropping, use of natural light, and geometries, she also discovered a type of solarisation for negatives independently of a similar process developed by the artist Man Ray.

She remained in Paris for ten years, but in the shadow of World War II, she and her husband immigrated to New York City in 1941. There, she had to re-establish her reputation, and got steady work in portraiture. By 1947, Bing came to the realization that New York had revitalized her art. Her style was very different; the softness that characterized her work in the 1930s gave way to hard forms and clear lines, with a sense of harshness and isolation. This was indicative of how Bing’s life and worldview had been changed by her move to New York and the war-related events of the 1940s.

Ilse Bing. Beethoven Autograph, Ode to Joy, 1933 via

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Self-portrait by Ilse Bing, 1931 via

Ilse Bing. Leather Gloves, 1933 via

 Ilse Bing. Self Portrait, Canal Saint Martin, Paris via

Ilse Bing. Fountain. Place De La Concorde via

Ilse Bing. Solarized Clocks, Paris, 1934 via

Vintage Photos Featuring Surrealist Muse Nusch Éluard by Dora Maar

Nusch Éluard (born Maria Benzn; 1906 – 1946) was a French performer, model and surrealist artist.

Born in Mulhouse (then part of the German Empire), she met Swiss architect and artist Max Bill in the Odeon Café in Zurich; he nicknamed her “Nusch”, a name she would stick to.

She moved to Paris in 1928 working as a stage performer, variously described as a small-time actress, a traveling acrobat, and a “hypnotist‘s stooge”. in In 1930 she met the poet Paul Éluard working as a model. They married him in 1934. She produced surrealist photomontage and other work, and is the subject of “Facile,” a collection of Éluard’s poetry published as a photogravure book, illustrated with Man Ray’s nude photographs of her.

She was also the subject of several cubist portraits and sketches by Pablo Picasso in the late 1930s, and is said to have had an affair with him. Nusch worked for the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. She died in 1946 in Paris, collapsing in the street due to a massive stroke.

Dora Maar – Nusch Eluard, c. 1935

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Nusch Eluard (couchée à plat ventre sur la plage), 1936-37 Photo by Dora Maar ©

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Dora Maar, Nusch Eluard, 1935

Early 20th Century Photos of Iconic French Designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel (1883 – 1971) was a French fashion designer and founder of the Chanel brand. She is the only fashion designer listed on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Along with Paul Poiret, Chanel was credited with liberating women from the constraints of the “corseted silhouette” and popularizing the acceptance of a sportive, casual chic as the feminine standard in the post-World War I era. A prolific fashion creator, Chanel’s influence extended beyond couture clothing. Her design aesthetic was realized in jewelry, handbags, and fragrance. Her signature scent, Chanel No. 5, has become an iconic product.

Chanel was known for her lifelong determination, ambition, and energy which she applied to her professional and social life. She achieved both success as a businesswoman and social prominence thanks to the connections she made through her work. These included many artists and craftspeople to whom she became a patron. However, Chanel’s life choices generated controversy, particularly her behaviour during the German occupation of France in World War II.

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Coco Chanel via

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Coco Chanel à Moulins, 1903 via

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Gabrielle Chanel, Deauville, 1913 via

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Coco Chanel via

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Salvador Dalí and Coco Chanel via

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Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel 1931 via

Vintage Photos of Beautiful 1930s Muse Princess Natalia Paley

Princess Natalia Pavlovna Paley, Countess de Hohenfelsen was a member of the Romanov family. A daughter of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia, she was the first cousin of the last Russian emperor, Nicholas II. Natalia’s half-brother, Grand Duke Dmitri had helped murder Grigory Rasputin in 1916; and her full brother, Prince Vladimir Paley, was killed by the Bolsheviks in July 1918.

After the Russian revolution she emigrated first to France and later to the United States.

At age 21 she met her first husband, Lucien Lelong. A prominent French couturier, he offered her a job in his fashion house. Natalia was an asset for Lelong’s business, with her aristocratic background and delicate features. With deep-set gray eyes and pale blond hair, she became a sought after model establishing an image for herself in the Parisian elite becoming a well known socialite. As a model, she appeared in many magazines including Vogue. She was a favorite model for the great photographers of her time: Edward Steichen, Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst, Andre Durst and George Hoyningen-Huene.

After her marriage to Lelong had fallen apart she began to pursue a film career. She is known for L’homme des Folies Bergère (1935), Les hommes nouveaux (1936) and L’épervier (1933).

She died on December 27, 1981 in Manhattan, New York City. In the last two decades of her life she had lived as a reclusive surrounded by her pets. After developing diabetes she had progressively lost her vision, which isolated her further.

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Natalie Paley, 1930 via

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Natalie Paley via

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Natalie Paley via

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Natalie Paley by Edward Steichen via

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Natalie Paley via

Maurice Chevalier and Nathalie Paley  “L’Homme des Folies-Bergère” 1935

A Collection of Photos Featuring Designs by Madame Grès (1930s)

Germaine Émilie Krebs (1903–1993), known as Alix Barton and later as “Madame Grès”, relaunched her design house under the name Grès in Paris in 1942. Prior to this, she worked as “Alix” or “Alix Grès” during the 1930s. Formally trained as a sculptress, she produced haute couture designs for an array of fashionable women, including the Duchess of Windsor, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Dolores del Río.

Her signature was cut-outs on gowns that made exposed skin part of the design, yet still had a classical, sophisticated feel. She was renowned for being the last of the haute couture houses to establish a ready-to-wear line, which she called a “prostitution”.

The name Grès was a partial anagram of her husband’s first name and alias. He was Serge Czerefkov, a Russian painter, who left her soon after the house’s creation. 

She retired at the end of the 1980s after French investor Bernard Tapie took control of the company. She died in a low-cost retirement home, apparently alone and penniless.

In 2012, the last Grès store in Paris was closed.

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Germaine Krebs (1903-1993) dite Alix puis Madame Grès, créant une robe du soir pour Macy’s. Paris, août 1933 via

Germaine Krebs (1903-1993) dite Alix puis Madame Grès, à l'époque de la maison Alix Barton, créant un modèle drapé sur un mannequin. Paris, 1933.

Madame Grès draping a dress, photographed by Boris Lipnitzki, ca. 1935 via

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Madame Grès, Dress, photographed by Eugène Rubin for Femina, 1937 via

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Madame Grès by George Hoyningen-Huene, 1937 via

Iconic Fashion Designer Coco Chanel by Cecil Beaton (1937)

NPG x40048; Gabrielle ('Coco') Chanel by Cecil Beaton

Coco Chanel, by Cecil Beaton 1937 © Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, Sotheby’s London via

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Coco Chanel, by Cecil Beaton 1937 © Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, Sotheby’s London via

Ninette de Valois (1932)

A key figure in 20th-century British ballet, Ninette de Valois (1898-2001) was a dancer, teacher, choreographer and director of classical ballet. But perhaps most importantly she was the Founder of The Royal Ballet, The Birmingham Royal Ballet and The Royal Ballet School.

In 1923, de Valois joined the Ballets Russes, the renowned ballet company founded by the Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev. She remained with the company for three years, being promoted to the rank of Soloist, and creating roles in some of the company’s most famous ballets

In 1931 de Valois established the Vic-Wells Ballet with a nucleus of six girls and herself as principal dancer. They were later called the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, after the theatres where the company danced.

When De Valois decided to produce Giselle, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Princess in full, it  was the first time classical ballets had been a regular part of a company’s repertory outside Russia.

In 1947 de Valois was made CBE and in 1951 was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Today she is regarded as one of the most influential figures in the history of ballet and as the ‘godmother’ of English ballet.

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Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet, in Douanes, England, 1932 via