Shoppe Talk ~ Vintage Boudoir Inspiration ~ Part Three

August 27, 2010

Hello again! Here is the grand finale of our brief survey of Alfred Cheney Johnston’s portrait work. Today, we will be looking at portraits that capture a theatrical spirit and inspire unique budoir style. This is an image of screen star Mary Pickford, who was a popular silent film actor, and is still regarded as one of the most influential women in the shaping of Hollywood. 7-ACJ-Pickford In this image, with Pickford’s right foot in the shadow and the edges of her dress looking pulled up against gravity, she looks weightless. It seems as though she is contemplating floating through the mirror, into a world obscured from our view--a nod to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, perhaps. Although Ms. Pickford isn’t wearing lingerie, the wardrobe choice and setting gives an impression of a private moment filled with whimsy, which can be an effective budoir approach. This next image is of Billie Dove (whose star on Hollywood Boulevard I pass on a regular basis!). She was a real renaissance woman, who painted, wrote poetry, and performed in Ziegfield’s follies as well as on the silver screen. 8-ACJ-Dove Here again we see Johnston’s signature use of the drape. The curves in this composition are so lovely and fluid, and with Ms. Dove’s slightly rocked-back pose, everything works together to depict a subtle balancing act. The beautiful silk shawls play well with Dove’s lyrical gesture, and the pearls play well off the texture of the tassels while giving her a focal point to play off of. She looks divine! This last image is one of my favorites of Johnston’s, but is a bit less characteristic of his style. This is due to its candid feel--yet it is still quite theatrical. 9-ACJ-Costello The portrait is of Dolores Costello, “Goddess of the Silver Screen” (and grandmother of Drew Barrymore). In this image, Costello leans upon an intricately painted folding screen. Although I would normally say it is a bad idea to have a subject compete against all that pattern without a much more shallow depth of field, the lighting, wardrobe, and styling really make it work. The screen immediately behind Dolores is highlighted to subdue the pattern, and lets her silhouette come forward. Her dark, wavy hair and full black tutu create great contrast against her skin, which lends her a definition of form apart from the screen. The theatrical spotlight illuminates her profile, though it can’t reveal just what she might be thinking… but what an exquisite thought it must be! Well, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining me in admiring these brilliant portraits. There are many more to be found online, and a treasure trove of them in the book Jazz Age Beauties: The Lost Collection of Ziegfield Photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston, by Robert Hudovernik (2006). Also, if you love vintage budoir style, be sure to check out our budoir album template! Until next time, happy shooting! -Mariann

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