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Cecil Beaton, Group portrait including Pussykins, Hildegart, His Imperial Majesty, Ratti, and other characters, from the first edition of the spoof memoir, My Royal Past, 1939. Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin.
Cecil Beaton, Group portrait including Pussykins, Hildegart, His Imperial Majesty, Ratti, and other characters, from the first edition of the spoof memoir, My Royal Past, 1939. Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin.

"My Royal Past: Cecil Beaton and the Art of Impersonation"

Cecil Bearton
Cecil Beaton, Uncle Mufti, an unidentified male, The Baroness, and Ratti (seated), from the first edition of the spoof memoir, My Royal Past, 1939. Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin.
Arguably best celebrated as a fashion and portrait photographer who brilliantly captured 20th-century luminaries — Queen Elizabeth, Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote, Pablo Picasso, Coco Chanel, Mick Jagger, the list goes on — Cecil Beaton proved himself a Renaissance man during a career that encompassed everything from war photography to Oscar-winning costume and set designs. As a diarist, Beaton espoused a brutally honest voice that earned him the nickname “Malice in Wonderland,” courtesy of fellow multitasker Jean Cocteau. Deemed “one of Robert L. B. Tobin’s quirkiest gifts to the McNay,” a collection of black-and-white photographs Beaton published under the pen name Baroness von Bülop comes to light in “My Royal Past,” a spoof memoir that casts theater stars of the era (and even Beaton himself) in elaborate scenes exploring gender, identity, status and style. Also on view: “Dressed to Kill: Glam and Gore in Theatre,” an exhibition of costume drawings celebrating “stylish seductresses and fashionable fiends” of the musical stage.

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