Cecil Beaton’s Visual Diaries


The Photographer’s Scrapbooks Showcase His Aesthetic Flair

Photographer, illustrator, painter and diarist Sir Cecil Beaton, famous for his portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and the Queen of England, was a man whose instinct for pure beauty and fantasy perfectly captured Hollywood’s golden age. His fluid, elegant style matched a thoughtful, generous personality––a trait that helped put his sitters at ease and enabled him to deliver some of the most iconic celebrity images of the era. Beaton developed his approach over a career that spanned five decades, adapting to shifting climates. Invaluable to this progress was the scrapbook: he filled dozens of journals with photos, drawings, paintings, magazine tears, newspapers, theater programs, brochures—anything that caught his interest. While the published extracts from his diaries during the 60s and 70s showed off a gossipy, verbally dexterous man who suffered from self-doubt, these miscellanies pop with personal observations, visual connections and studies of shape and color, revealing complex and intimate thought processes. Assouline has reproduced a selection of these albums for the first time in Cecil Beaton: The Art of the Scrapbook, with an introduction by gallerist James Danziger, who was struck not only by the personal nature of the books, but also by the disappearance of a once-popular pastime.“[The books] seemed like a relic from a pre-digital era,” he says. “What is going to happen to our visual memories as we move forward?”

James Danziger explains Beaton’s unique genius here.