Condé Nast is a publishing house that immediately comes to mind with two words: beautiful and rich. This applies to the editorial section of magazines such as "Vogue", "Vanity Fair" or "House & Garden", which is predominantly dedicated to a life of luxury; but it probably also applies to a not insignificant part of the readership. In any case, what these magazines disseminate would be called court reporting elsewhere on the globe.

Freddy Langer

Editor in the feuilleton, responsible for the "Reiseblatt".

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And even if the nobility and aristocracy play a rather subordinate role in American society, the publications nevertheless made every effort from the very beginning to follow at least the centuries-old aesthetics with which the world and the members of the ruling houses were depicted in painting: with full-length portraits in stiff poses and gazes, in which a trace of worldliness is always recognizable. We're up here, you're down there. Last but not least, power comes from the image.

New directions in fashion

With the purchase of the fashion magazine "Vogue" in 1909, which was experiencing its first dry spell at the time, Condé Montrose Nast laid the foundation of a publishing empire which, with acquisitions of other magazines and expansions through national editions, soon in France and England, for example, not only offered a forum for new directions in fashion, art and even the designs of furniture and houses, but at the same time wanted to make a significant contribution to the formation of taste on two continents.

The time for this could not have been better chosen. There were rumblings everywhere, revolutionary ideas and views of an avant-garde were pushing onto the market, and at least for American publications, the First World War did not seem to mean a particularly deep cut.

It is all the more astonishing to see how conservative "Vogue" and "Vanity Fair" were in many of their depictions for a long time – even when the magazines were illustrated with black-and-white photographs instead of colored drawings and watercolors thanks to new printing options.

Perhaps even more so; for while the draftsmen, despite all their obsession with detail in the depiction of the costumes, came up with sophisticated backgrounds and located their figures in sometimes daring dream scenes, the photographers had to be content with the monochrome background of the studio, against which they vividly worked out the clothes of their models through a skilful lighting direction. The playful depiction of joie de vivre between beach, yacht and castle thus gave way to the pathos of a drama in the non-space of the empty stage. A way of working that many photographers adhered to until the sixties, despite all the social and political upheavals.

Development of your own visual language

"Chronorama" is the name of a magnificent exhibition in Venice that, with more than four hundred images, traces the development of Condé Nast's visual language over seven decades, up to the moment when color photography arrived and the photographs landed on the editorial desk as slides and no longer as carefully produced prints. After all, that's what the presentation is all about: showing works of such quality that they meet museum standards.