“After dinner at Dickie Buckle’s, David talked of the coming of the Golden Age. He had read many philosophers and has thought a great deal. In the next 40 years all will change. The computer will do away with work; everyone will be an artist“.Cecil Beaton from Cecil Beaton’s Diary, 1963-74 The Parting Years.
“Dickie Buckle” is Sir Richard Sandford Buckle (1916 – 2001), a well-known ballet critic. He founded Ballet magazine in 1939. David is David Hockney, painter-draftsman-printmaker-stage designer-photographer. A most important contributor to the Pop Art movement of the 1960s, he is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
On occasion, I like to pluck my copy of one of the volumes of Cecil Beaton’s Diary and open to a random page. Today, I discovered that in 1969, Hockney was asked by Vogue to do a drawing of Beaton; Hockney went to stay with Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) for three days at Reddish Manor, in the village of Broad Chalke, Wiltshire, England, an early 18th-century manor house.
Also, from that diary entry, of Hockney Beaton writes:
“It is always fascinating to see someone as remote as oneself working in the same field. I was intrigued to see him admiring things that I like from a completely different point of view. We could not be farther apart as human beings and yet I find myself completely at ease with him and stimulated by his enthusiasm. For he has this golden quality of being able to enjoy life.
He is never blasé, never takes anything for granted. Life is a delightful wonderland for him; much of the time he is wreathed in smiles. He laughs aloud at television and radio. He is the best possible audience, though by no means simple. He is sophisticated in that he has complete purity. There is nothing pretentious about him; he never says anything he does not mean. In the world of art intrigue he is a complete natural.”
There are so many wonderful things to appreciate about the Netflix‘s The Crown. Peter Morgan‘s scintillating series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II is a lavish, luxuriant, taffeta-wrapped, jewel-dripping drama that looks as if every penny of its $13-million per episode budget is money well spent. Equal part historical saga and soap opera, it indulges our seemingly endless curiosity about the British Royal Family.
In the final scene from Season One, the Queen posed for official coronation portraits shot by Beaton who manages to transform her majesty from a handsome, if slightly uninteresting woman, into the glorious and resolute Queen Elizabeth II. Beaton’s official portraits made her an icon throughout the Commonwealth.
On The Crown, when Beaton turns up to shoot a portrait, he does so while unspooling lines from Wordsworth, Tennyson or Shakespeare to set his subjects in a properly glorious frame of mind. In what is my favorite hour of television in 2017, Episode Four of Season Two, Beaton comes to Buckingham Palace to shoot Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby), who gives him some art criticism, complaining that his only way to take a picture is to create a fairy tale.
This Beaton, played in The Crown by Irish actor Mark Tandy, had attended Elizabeth’s coronation ceremony, taking notes and making sketches from the balcony. His is the most famous photograph of the Queen, the one we see when we picture her.
Beaton became an unofficial court photographer for the British Royal Family in 1937, after photographing the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth’s uncle Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne so he could marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee.
That scandalous abdication and the disgraced Edward VIII, which figures in a major plot twist on The Crown, tarnished the image of the Windsors. Beaton is credited with restoring some glory to the Royal family with his photographs. For more, see WoW writer’s Trey Speegle‘s impressive piece about Beaton and the Royals from last autumn here.
I have been reading two volumes of Cecil Beaton’s Diaries over the past few years, in small little doses, choosing to read a few entries here and there.
Beaton recalled in his diaries, that he received a call from Buckingham Palace:
“The telephone rang. ‘This is the lady-in-waiting speaking. Queen Mary wants to know if you will photograph her tomorrow afternoon.’ At first, I thought it might be a practical joke, but it was no joke. My pleasure and excitement were overwhelming. In choosing me to take her photographs, the Queen made a daring innovation…my work was still considered revolutionary and unconventional.”
The official portraits were a stunning success, creating a modern image for the Royal Family. In 1942, he photographed Queen Mary‘s 16-year-old granddaughter Elizabeth for the first time. Beaton photographed Elizabeth again for her 18th birthday, and wrote in his diary:
“Princess Elizabeth’s easy charm, like her mother’s, does not carry across in her photographs, and each time one sees her one is delighted to find how much more serene, magnetic, and at the same time meltingly sympathetic she is than one had imagined. One misses, even in color photographs, the effect of the dazzlingly fresh complexion, the clear regard from the glass-blue eyes, and the gentle, all pervading sweetness of her smile.”
Beaton continued taking photos of the Royal Family over the decades, including each of Elizabeth’s children at their christenings: Prince Charles in 1948, plus Princess Anne in 1950, Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964.
Beaton knew and photographed everyone that mattered for most of the 20th century, including Coco Chanel, Albert Camus, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys.
He was a chronicler of showbiz figures from Noël Coward to Mick Jagger, for whom Beaton had a special passion (Jagger dubbed him “Rip-Van-With-it”).
Beaton was also a painter, and interior designer. He designed costumes for the Lerner and Loewe musical My Fair Lady (1956), and for two Lerner and Loewe film musicals, Gigi (1958) and My Fair Lady (1964), each earned Beaton an Oscar. He also designed the costumes for the film version of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970). His other Broadway credits include The Grass Harp (1952), The Chalk Garden (1955), Saratoga (1959), Tenderloin (1960), and Coco (1969). He won four Tony Awards. He designed the sets and costumes for a production of Puccini‘s Turandot, for the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.