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Cecil Beaton, C.B.E
Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) is best known as a photographer, a description that always annoyed him. His greatest love was the theatre, and it was this that inspired his sketches, cartoons, costume designs and caricatures. Beaton exhibited these works many times during his lifetime, helping to finance his busy and glamorous lifestyle, and was always pleased that his work should enter private collections and enjoy a favoured position on the wall rather than remaining unseen in his studio.
Beaton's unforgettable photographs of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, wearing a white lace dress and holding a parasol on the lawns at Buckingham palace, transformed her public image from a somewhat stout young queen into an exquisite fashion icon. Exuding romance and fantasy, his work remained firmly attuned to the momentous changes in fashion that took place during his long life.
Beaton's utopia and inspiration was his home, Ashcombe, a once-grand eighteenth-century country house set in the rolling downlands of the Wiltshire/Dorset border, which he leased in 1930. There he played host to throngs of bright young things in the pre-war years, until it became more of a refuge in view of his enormous wartime success.
Educated at Harrow and Cambridge, Beaton was the official photographer for various British government and military agencies, and his work created a permanent historical record of the overwhelming devastation inflicted on London by German bombings during World War II. Moving among high society for over five decades, popular with show business and royalty alike, Beaton received his highest accolade when he was knighted in 1972.