Skip to content

Artist Spotlight: Richard Rutledge

December 11, 2009
Beauty Expert, April 1, 1958

Model posed over glass table, photographed by Richard Rutledge in the April 1, 1958 Vogue

Note: Click on each image to get an enlarged view, read more information, and begin navigating through the entire image gallery.

In the years following World War II, Condé Nast had a grand photography studio in the Graybar Building in midtown Manhattan. It was stocked with the latest equipment, and a stable of photographers and assistants cranking out fashion spreads, portraits, and product still lifes. One of those studio photographers, Richard Rutledge, is relatively unknown to us today, but for a 15-year period following the war he was one of the most frequently published photographers in Vogue, Glamour, and House & Garden.

Rutledge, who died in Paris one week prior to his 62nd birthday, in the fall of 1985, might have been called a “utility player” had he been a baseball player instead of a photographer. He was comfortable shooting in black and white or color; in the studio or outdoors; with SLR or 8×10 plate; fashion, portraits, travel, still life—it was all the same to him. In his own words, he found darkroom work “a chore”; what he liked best were the results.

While Rutledge’s black-and-white work is accomplished (his 1953 portrait of a young Jacqueline Bouvier is resplendent in its simplicity), his color work stands above. The color films used during Rutledge’s day have an incredible depth that, when combined with his skillful compositions, produce shockingly modern results. He preferred animated and natural expressions on models, and often used  playful banter to coax the person from behind the model’s façade. He also seems to have had a fondness for red; the color is incorporated into nearly every shot below.

Slow Motion, March 1, 1952

Model photographed in slow motion in front of Paris Metro posters

Red dresses, July 1, 1954

Two models in red dresses, playing cards

Two Models on the Shore, November 15, 1954

Two models, one in bathing suit, one in bathing blouse, on the shore

Red Satin Coat, December 1, 1955

Model in red satin evening coat and jeweled chrysanthemum hat

Grapes and Cherries, October 1, 1948

Model in pajamas, wearing Revlon's "Orchids to You" nail enamel and lipstick, and holding a bowl of grapes and cherries

Manicured Hand and Lace-Up Shoes, April 1, 1957

Model's hand tying the lace on a Janianelli décolleté oxford shoe

Big Straw Hat, January 1, 1957

Model wearing plaid cape and enormous, floppy black straw hat.

Model Against Blinds, February 1, 1957

Model leaning against wooden blinds

Betty Downey, July 1, 1950

Portrait of Betty Downey, Glamour fashion editor

Red Heels, April 1, 1957

Model wearing red shoes

"The Autumn Gold Look," October 1, 1957

Model holding a stem of wheat to her red lips

6 Comments leave one →
  1. jill theis permalink
    January 10, 2010 2:57 pm

    knew dick in new york 1953/4

    he photographed my friend model sonia hurst

    we were botgh english

    i worked for time

    dick would often compose a shot, fiddle with setting and then junk it all and take a simple shot of just the model wondering why he didnt start this way every time as it was far more effective

    he persuaded me t ride with him in central park and insisted on black breechs and that i rode a grey horse!

    he was the indest person and very amusing

    i lost touch after `1975

    so pleased to find your article

    do you know why he died?

  2. January 12, 2010 2:32 pm

    Hi, Jill – thanks for sharing those stories. It’s great to hear from people who interacted with these artists firsthand. The reasons for Rutledge’s death are not entirely clear, but everyone acquainted with him feels he certainly died too young.

  3. Don Honeyman permalink
    February 14, 2010 2:28 pm

    Dick was a delightful colleague at NY and Paris Vogue Studios just after the war. I remember his coming out of a portrait sitting with Joan Crawford. “She’s like Dorian Grey in reverse: her pictures stay the same while she decays!”

    He invited the mainstays of the Paris Studio, Mme Dile and Simone Erhard, to
    visit New York in the 50’s. They all came to lunch with us in Briarcliff, and the ladies, then in their sixties at least, complained bitterly that they were ‘invisible’ to men in New York. “A Paris quand meme, une femme est une femme, n’importe quel age.”

    An incidental correction: the Conde Nast offices were in the Greybar Building, 420 Lexington, (with gold stars set in the corridor floor leading to Vogue,) but the studios were in 480 Lexington, along with many other photographers, such as Anton Bruehl.

  4. Don Honeyman permalink
    February 18, 2010 1:57 pm

    To Shawn. the archivist: I’ ve managed to wipe irretrievably your query from my new computer– I’d love to chat– DWH

  5. stacy sheehan permalink
    February 24, 2010 8:39 pm

    Betty Downey is my grandmother. How might I get a copy of that photograph? We’ve never seen that one.
    Thanks for any information
    stacy sheehan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: