There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
TO FEB. 25
They aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but let it be said that the images of British photographer Madame Yevonde (1893–1975) demand the viewer’s attention. Working in portraiture and advertising in 1930s London, the photographer (born Yevonde Cumbers) used the historically obscure Vivex color process at a time when color photography in general was rare. Today, Vivex calls to mind the characteristic, slightly dull mid-century toning that’s halfway between the painterly, romantic hues of the earlier gum-bichromate and Autochrome processes and the precision of later Kodak and digital techniques. But in “Madame Yevonde: 1930s Advertising + Fashion and Goddesses Photographs,” the coloration—often heightened by Yevonde’s penchant for dressing her models in bold attire, accessories, and lipstick—merely vies for attention with the subject matter. (Lady Mibanke as Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons is pictured.) Her advertising images are brazen enough—patent medicines mingling in still lifes with military helmets and glowering, taxidermied owls, for example, or a tennis-racket-toting woman mixing glasses of a vile-looking Tang forerunner—but they’re child’s play compared to Yevonde’s Goddess series, in which her aristocratic clients dressed up as mythological figures and muses. While Yevonde was clearly influenced by fashion-photography trends (some images echo Baron Adolphe de Meyer and Edward Steichen), “flamboyant” doesn’t begin to do her justice. Flowing chiffon mingles with taffeta in shades of amber, cyan, and lime; these, in turn, mix it up with pistols, swords, daisies, mounted bull heads, and Roman busts. Such stagey (and pretentious) mishmashes don’t hold up today, but when Yevonde reined in her flashier impulses, her images work: a gorgeous Vivien Leigh (in an uncomplicated composition that softens even Leigh’s Robin Hood–green suit and the harsh orange-red background) and auto racer Jill Thomas (whose brick-red driving outfit and goggles punctuate the background’s uncharacteristically soft watercolorlike wash). The show is on view from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and by appointment, to Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Kathleen Ewing Gallery, 1609 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 328-0955. (Louis Jacobson)