Sir Cecil Walter Hardy Beaton was born 1904 in Hampstead, London, to a society family. He studied at Heath Mount School and St Cyprian’s Scholl Eastbourne and was taught the basics of photography by his nanny who owned a Kodak 3A Camera and would allow him to assist with processing the films in the basement.
He began studying art, architecture and history at Cambridge and, through his university contacts, he succeeded in shooting a portrait of the Duchess of Amalfi, which was then published in Vogue. Beaton left Cambridge in 1925 without completing his degree but from 1927 he was employed regularly by Vogue.
Beaton is best known for his fashion photography and society portraits, but also for his iconic photographs of Hollywood’s celebrities and portraits of the Royal Family, in particular of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
Beaton was appointed by the Ministry of Information during the Second World War to record activity on home front. After the war he worked as a costume, set and lighting designer on Broadway.
He was the winner of 4 Tony Awards and was a major influence on two of the 20th century’s other great photography masters, Angus McBean and David Bailey.
Cecil Beaton died in 1980, aged 76.
Reference bibliography: Buckman D., 2006, Artists in Britain since 1945, Vol 1, Art Dictionaries Ltd, Bristol.