“I didn’t bring you to Paris to make art; I brought you here to do the buttons and bows,” Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow famously snapped at photographer Lillian Bassman during a fashion shoot for the magazine in the late 1940s.
But Bassman’s fashion photographs are considered to be among the greatest of the 20th century — in a league with other creative masters, including Richard Avedon and Irving Penn — and an inspiration to such designers as John Galliano and the subject of exhibitions around the globe.
Her photos captured a mid-century world of elegant, slightly elongated women, impeccably dressed, done up in high-contrast black and white. Avedon once described her style as making “visible that heartbreaking invisible place between the appearance and the disappearance of things.”
Bassman died Monday at 94 at her home in Manhattan, her son Eric Himmel announced, working right up until the end.