Art

When Dior came to India

The models against the backdrop on India’s rich cultural legacy add to the frames  

Even fashion fanatics may not know that the former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland told the iconic 20th century fashion photographer Norman Parkinson after his photo assignment in India, “How clever of you, Mr. Parkinson, also to know that pink is the navy blue of India.”

It is quite an experience to read this and then view some of the same photographs at Tasveer's latest exhibition of photographs by Norman Parkinson titled “Pink Is the Navy Blue of India”.

Obviously, a significant number of photographs in the exhibition are from Parkinson's trip to India on a Vogue assignment in 1956 with Barbara Mullen and Anne Gunning.

He captures them across the country from Kashmir and Delhi to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Barbara Mullen lies down, Bollywood style, in a cotton “mousseline” dress amidst flowers on a boat in Srinagar's Dal Lake.

Anne Gunning peeks out from behind a pillar in Chennai's Mylapore temple in a yellow dress, as a boy sitting on the steps near the temple tank looks up.

In the swim of things

Barbara Mullen poses in a bathing dress against the backdrop of the Taj Mahal, she stands regally amidst the pillars of the Quwwat-ul-Islam in a gold Dior ball gown.

Anne Gunning has her hand over a pallu covering her head in a pink mohair coat outside the Jaipur Palace. A decked-up elephant towers above her, manned by guards in pink.

Apart from the photographs in India, Audrey Hepburn makes an appearance in a pink dress, spread out playfully on a cane table and standing next to a shroud of pink flowers.

There are also a few photographs of Parkinson's wife Wenda and Uma Thurman's mother, Nena Won Schlebrugge.

Easily the most distinguished pictures are those taken in India, largely because of the way the photo shoot has been combined with the background of India's rich legacy.

The models in their dresses, slacks and bathing suits fit like an eclectic piece of art in a living room, standing out against the rich Orient without seeming odd.

Parkinson's quirkiness is equally evident in the poses of these models, standing in a paddy field, under the rotors of a plane, in a narrow alleyway lined by brick walls or about to jump into a lake. His enthusiasm and uncanny imagination induce life into usually mute models.

In “Wenda and the Cow”, taken for Vogue in 1954, the model (his wife) leans against the wall of a cow shed smiling and looking sideways, while a cow looks out balefully from the window. Parkinson maintains, even enhances, the glamour of it all.

Parkinson was one of the most famous fashion photographers of the 20 century, working for almost all the top fashion magazines of the times, including Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Queen's and Town & Country.

“Pink Is the Navy Blue of India” will be on view at Tasveer, 26/1, Sua House, Kasturba Cross Road until March 20.

For details call 40535217.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 1:50:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/art/When-Dior-came-to-India/article13065257.ece

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