CECIL BEATON (1904-80) enjoyed enormous fame during his lifetime. As a photographer, his work represented five decades of the twentieth century – from the ‘Roaring Twenties’, through the long years of the Second World War to the ‘Swinging Sixties’. His many talents including designing for stage, screen, ballet and opera. He won Oscars for his work on Gigi and My Fair Lady. He was a compulsive diarist, he lectured, he wrote books on fashion, ballet and New York. Cecil Beaton was a self-creation. Born in Hampstead, the son of a prosperous timber merchant, he became an arbiter of style and fashion, an international figure in his own right. He could be undermining. Kenneth Tynan said of him that if he arrived at your party, he would give the impression that he had just come from a very much better party upstairs. He had a curious love affair with Greta Garbo.Above all he loved England and the English countryside, and central to that love was his discovery of Ashcombe, the mysterious house in the valley, which he leased for fifteen years. Cecil Beaton was knighted in 1972 for his services to the arts.


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