My Royal Past: Cecil Beaton and the Art of Impersonation

February 17, 2016 to June 5, 2016

Published in autumn 1939, just as Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, My Royal Past by Baroness von Bülop has languished almost forgotten despite the fame of its actual author—photographer and costume designer Cecil Beaton. Now is an appropriate time to rediscover Beaton’s original black and white photographs for this spoof celebrity memoir, one of Robert L. B. Tobin’s quirkiest gifts to the McNay. In making My Royal Past, Beaton enlisted the help of such theatre-world celebrities as choreographer Frederick Ashton and designer Christian Bérard, who costumed and posed for elaborate stage tableaux that set precedents for today’s rediscovery of narrative photography. In making My Royal Past, Beaton's friends engaged with great glee in impersonations of social status and of gender, setting the stage for contemporary explorations of clothing and of identity.