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Fashion photographer Lillian Bassman dead at 94

February 14, 2012 | 11:20 am

Lillian Bassman and her husband Paul HimmelPhotographer Lillian Bassman came on the fashion scene in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, shooting elegant wasp-waisted women, art directing at Junior Bazaar and inspiring the designers whose creations she photographed. 

She left the fashion scene in the 1970s but returned 20 years later, thanks to some assists from the painter Helen Frankenthaler and photo historian Martin Harrison. Within the last few years, the art and fashion world declared that she was in the midst of a renaissance and renewed interest in her work led to a new book and exhibitions around the world.

Bassman died Monday in New York. She was 94.

According to an obituary in the New York Times, during her first flourishing, Bassman "became highly sought after for her expressive portraits of slender, long-necked models advertising lingerie, cosmetics and fabrics. Her lingerie work in particular brought lightness and glamour to an arena previously known for heavy, middle-aged women posing in industrial-strength corsets."

Bassman's work was featured at the Peter Fetterman Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica in 2010. Her work was published in "Lillian Bassman" in 1997 and "Lillian Bassman: Women" in 2009.

Dress By Dior
At one time her favorite model was Barbara Mullen, above, noted for her 20-inch waist. "There are models that are not models but muses," Bassman recalled in a 2010 article in the Los Angeles Times. "She had everything marvelous: a beautiful neck, grace, the ability to respond to me.

"We used to get on the floor, and when I get excited, I take my shoes off," she continued. "The two of us would dance. We understood each other."

Mullen agreed. "I felt absolutely wonderful when I moved with was like being heaven."


PHOTOS: A gallery of photos by Lillian Bassman

Lillian Bassman, the return of an icon

'Posing Beauty' photo exhibition at USC Fisher Museum of Art

Celebrities turn out for opening gala of 'Beauty Culture' at the Annenberg Space for Photography

 -- Alice Short

Photos: Top, Lillian Bassman and husband Paul Himmel attend the CFDA hosted viewing of MOMA's "Fashioning Fiction in Photography Since 1990," on April 22, 2004, in Queens, New York. Credit: Andrew Kent / Getty Images

Middle, model Barbara Mullen in a gown by Christian Dior, from Harper's Bazaar, April 1949.  Credit: Estate of Lillian Bassman / Peter Fetterman Gallery.