Biography and History

Sir Cecil Walter Hardy Beaton was an English fashion and portrait photographer and a stage and costume designer for films and the theater. When he was eleven his grandmother bought him a Kodak 3A camera, and he began to teach himself the basics of photography, often getting his sisters and mother to sit for him. He managed to get a portrait sitting with the Duchess of Amalfi, and the resulting images gave Beaton his first piece of published work in Vogue magazine; in 1927 he started working for Vogue on a regular basis. Beaton often photographed the Royal Family for official publication and he also took the wedding pictures of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. During the Second World War, Beaton was posted to the Ministry of Information and given the task of recording images from the home front. After the war, Beaton tackled the Broadway stage, designing sets, costumes, and lighting for a 1946 revival of Lady Windermere's Fan, in which he also acted. His most celebrated achievement for the stage was the sets and costumes for My Fair Lady (1956) which led to two film musicals, Gigi (1958) and My Fair Lady (1964), both of which earned Beaton the Academy Award for Costume Design. In 1972, Beaton received his knighthood, but suffered a major stroke two years later which permanently paralyzed one side of his body. Though primarily homosexual, he did have relationships with women, including the actress Greta Garbo.

Source: From the finding aid for C1194

  • Cecil Beaton Papers. 1938-1979 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1194

    Consists chiefly of correspondence of Cecil Beaton, English fashion and portrait photographer and Academy Award winning stage and constume designer for film and theater, with his author friend Hal Burton.