Audrey Hepburn & Richard Avedon

On May 4, 1929, Audrey Hepburn was born in Belgium; today, she would have been 87 years old. When she took Hollywood by storm in 1953 with her starring role in Roman Holiday, audiences were immediately captivated. She was not a traditional bombshell, but her arresting features, waifish figure, and sophisticated persona gave her an air of mystery, and an entirely unique allure. 

Long-time Hepburn fans remember the actress for her work in film favorites such as Sabrina, Charade, How to Steal a Million, and of course, Breakfast at Tiffanys. Now, posters of Hepburn in sunglasses and a little black dress adorn countless apartment walls, as a new generation celebrates the eternal fashion icon. Her role as Hubert de Givenchy’s muse is well-known, but she also inspired one of the greatest fashion photographers of the mid-twentieth century: Richard Avedon. The two collaborated for over twenty years on fashion shoots that are engrained in our collective memory, most notably for Harper’s Bazaar. The magazine’s boundary-pushing fashion photography came from the innovative leadership of Editor-in-Chief Carmel Snow, Fashion Editor Diana Vreeland, Art Director Alexey Brodovitch, and Avedon as photographer.

Audrey Hat

Harper's Bazaar Magazine, April 1956
Gift of Susan Haynsworth

Avedon and Hepburn’s artist/muse relationship was showcased in the 1957 musical Funny Face, a whimsical homage to the world of fashion. Fred Astaire played a charming fashion photographer, the not-so-subtlety named Dick Avery, and Hepburn played the intellectual idealist who makes a reluctant transition to model and muse. Avedon himself was a consultant on the film, which sees Hepburn through a series of photo shoots in romantic Paris locales, dressed impeccably in Givenchy couture. The movie was truly a case of art imitating life; one year before Funny Face was released, Avedon shot Hepburn’s first cover of Harper’s Bazaar in April 1956. The photograph is simple and fresh, just Hepburn’s lovely face framed by a floral scarf and wide-brimmed hat, with a clean white background. He photographed her again for the October 1956 cover, this time with a moody moonlit backdrop. She wears a dark suit, a zebra chapeau, and a sultry expression. Inside, Hepburn transforms once again – we see her smiling widely beneath a voluminous feathered turban by Jacques Fath. The Museum recently acquired both of these important Harper’s Bazaar issues thanks to a generous donation to our Special Collections.

Audrey Zebra

Harper's Bazaar Magazine, October 1956
Gift of Susan Haynsworth

As arguably the world’s most recognizable actress, Audrey Hepburn participated in plenty of photo shoots. However, it was with Avedon that she felt truly comfortable – an unspoken trust between model and photographer that becomes clear in the finished portrait. Robert Wolders, her partner in later years, once revealed, “She often said that working with him was like having a conversation with a good friend."[1]

Hepburn made a rare public appearance in January 1989 to present Avedon with a CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award. In her speech, she expanded on her experiences with the gifted photographer:

“For Richard, I've happily swung through swings, stood in clouds of steam, been drenched with rain, and descended endless flights of stairs without looking and without breaking my neck…. Only with Richard have I been able to shed my innate self-consciousness in front of the camera. Is it his sweetness? Is it his sense of fun? The assurance that you know you're going to end up looking the way you wished you looked?"[2]

For his part, Avedon was equally enchanted with the actress, stating, “I am, and forever will be, devastated by the gift of Audrey Hepburn before my camera.”[3]

Audrey Feathers

Harper's Bazaar Magazine, October 1956
Gift of Susan Haynsworth


[1] Robert Wolders quoted by Pamela Fiori, “All About Audrey,”, January 23, 2013,

[2] Audrey Hepburn quoted by Pamela Fiori, “All About Audrey,”, January 23, 2013.

[3] Richard Avedon quoted by Pamela Fiori, “All About Audrey,”, January 23, 2013.

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