Among all of the Fashion Week festivities going on in NYC this week, I was most intrigued by the photography exhibition held at Fiorentini + Baker’s flagship store in SoHo, which showcased the work of  renowned British portraitist Cornel Lucas. When I first walked into the spacious shoe boutique, I thought I was in the wrong place; it was not until I ventured into the back of the store that I saw the walls full of  iconic black-and-white photos, dramatic portraits of classic movie stars and directors, like Katherine Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Federico Fellini, Marlene Dietrich, and Gregory Peck.

The Cornel Lucas exhibition at Fiorentini + Baker’s flagship store in SoHo. Image courtesy of Cornel Lucas’s Facebook page.

The exhibition, which opened on September 5, with a private viewing party for close friends of the designers and the artist’s family, is set to run from September 6, 2012, until October 28, 2012, and Fiorentini + Baker will be selling the prints, which Cornel Lucas hand-made himself, throughout the exhibition.

When I visited the exhibition, I had the good fortune to be able to speak to Linus Lucas, Cornel Lucas’s son, about the body of work, who said that he and his father decided to showcase the portraits at Fiorentini + Baker because of the friendship between the Lucas family and Deborah Baker, who, in addition to being an exceptional shoe designer, is also an avid collector of Cornel Lucas’s work.

“I have the Fellini and one of the Diana Dors,” Baker said, of the prints hanging on the walls of her boutique. She and Linus Lucas seemed equally eager to tell me about the photos themselves and about the artist who created them, pointing out their personal favorites and asking me about which portraits I preferred.

            Deborah Baker and Linus Lucas at the Sept. 5 opening of the exhibition. Photo courtesy of Cornel Lucas’s Facebook page.

The exhibition opened on September 5, partially to coincide with the famed portraitist’s 92nd birthday, and partially because of its timing within Fashion Week in New York. Lucas, who has been photographing movie stars since his first assignment at Denham Studios in 1945, is considered a master of the 12 x 10 large format plate camera, and has worked for Pinewood, Columbia (now owned by Sony Pictures), and Universal Studios. During the making of No Highway (1951), his skill and expertise behind the camera earned him a special session with Marlene Deitrich.

“Marlene Dietrich II” (1948), vintage silver gelatin print, hand-printed by Cornel Lucas, one of the exhibition’s many portraits on display.

In 1998, Cornel Lucas became the first photographer ever to be awarded a BAFTA (an honorary award presented by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts) for his services to the British film industry. Lucas’s work can also be viewed in London at the National Portrait Gallery, at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Photographers’ Gallery, and at the National Museum of Photography in Bradford, where it is on permanent display. A limited edition of British postage stamps has also been produced which feature his work.

In a brief bio provided at the exhibition, Cornel Lucas’s work is said to “capture the mood and personality of his sitters,” to “possess a warmth, a life rich in texture, that immediately impact the viewer— a timeless quality that will be appreciated for many years to come.” After having visited the exhibition, I am more than inclined to agree. Regardless of your other plans for Fashion Week, Fiorentini + Baker is worth a trip, if not for the stunning quality of the photos themselves, then to meet the wonderful people behind the exhibition.

Get in touch with the author @kellitrapnell.

Leave a Comment