Lillian Bassman, fashion and fine-art photographer, dies 94

paul himmel/abrams books/file 1955


NEW YORK - Lillian Bassman, a magazine art director and fashion photographer who achieved renown in the 1940s and ’50s with high-contrast, dreamy portraits of sylphlike models, then reemerged in the ’90s as a fine-art photographer after a cache of lost negatives resurfaced, died Monday at her home in New York. She was 94.

Her son, Eric Himmel, confirmed the death.


Ms. Bassman entered the world of magazine editing and fashion photography as a protégé of Alexey Brodovitch, the renowned art director of Harper’s Bazaar. In late 1945, for a spinoff called Junior Bazaar, she was asked to be its art director, a title she shared with Brodovitch, at his insistence.

In addition to providing innovative graphic design, Ms. Bassman gave prominent display to future photographic stars like Richard Avedon, Robert Frank, and Louis Faurer, whose work whetted her appetite to become a photographer.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Already, at Harper’s Bazaar, she had begun frequenting the darkroom on her lunch hours to develop images by the great fashion photographer George Hoyningen-Huene, using tissues and gauzes to bring selected areas of a picture into focus and applying bleach to manipulate tone.

Ms. Bassman became highly sought after for her expressive portraits of slender, long-necked models advertising lingerie, cosmetics, and fabrics. Lillian Violet Bassman was born in Brooklyn and grew up in the Bronx.

Ms. Bassman took a fresh look at her earlier work in the 1990s. She began reprinting the negatives, applying some of the bleaching techniques and other toning agents with which she had first experimented in the 1940s, creating more abstract, mysterious prints.


Her reinterpretations, as she called them, found a new generation of admirers. A career revival ensued, with gallery shows and international exhibitions.

Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.
You're reading  1 of 5 free articles.
Get UNLIMITED access for only 99¢ per week Subscribe Now >
You're reading1 of 5 free articles.Keep scrolling to see more articles recomended for you Subscribe now
We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles.
Continue reading by subscribing to for just 99¢.
 Already a member? Log in Home
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of
Marketing image of