Sir Cecil

Quick trip to the Museum of the City of New York to catch Cecil Beaton: The New York Years. That Sir Cecil’s work as photographer, costume designer and portraitist could be captured in a single room is amazing. But here it is, in an exhibit that is both rich and spare. Of particular interest; the shots of Wallis Simpson. Any man who could bring out the softer side of the Duchess of Windsor clearly understood difficult personalities. And Katherine Hepburn? I think he adored her celebrity but personally hated her. His gouache of her in the late Thirties makes her appear arch and prematurely old. Three decades later, when he photographed her to promote her Broadway appearance in Coco (the high point of which seems to be his own fabulous red and black dresses) she appeared, as he complained to his diary, “Far too young” to play Chanel, deeming her performance “without any magic, her timing as erratic as ever…”

(See fuller treatment of Beaton’s trials with “K.H.” running through New York Diaries: 1609-2009.)

The exhibit ends February 20. Worth seeing if only for the costumes for the Metropolitan Opera’s performances of La Traviata and Turandot. No fudging here. They’re lush and perfect to the last stitch. Overall, evocative of pastry. On the trip home I bought a cupcake with buttercream icing and ate it before dinner.