Hearst Castle

Martín Munkácsi, [Gardens, Hearst Ranch, San Simeon, California], 1933

Martín Munkácsi, [William Randolph Hearst in his study, Hearst Ranch, San Simeon, California], 1933

Martín Munkácsi, [Tennis court and garden, Hearst Ranch, San Simeon, California], 1933

Martín Munkácsi, [Group, including Carmel Snow (left) and Charlie Chaplin, Hearst Ranch, San Simeon, California], 1933

Martín Munkácsi, [Ballroom, Hearst Ranch, San Simeon, California], 1933

In 1917 newspaper magnet William Randolph Hearst inherited the 250,000-acre ranch at San Simeon, California, from his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, who became the owner after the death of her husband, George Hearst, in 1891. William, the only son of a wealthy miner and teacher, became one of the most influential people of his time, whose powers extended to the world of publishing, politics, Hollywood, and art.

The Hearst estate, first known as “Camp Hill,” started off as an ideal location where family and friends of the Hearsts would camp in what initially was nothing more than a wilderness. In 1919 William Hearst started a decades-long collaboration with architect Julia Morgan, which resulted in the creation of a vast and monumental estate inspired by the wealth of European castles and cathedrals Hearst had seen during his trips to Europe with his mother when he was young. “Hearst Castle,” as it was called, consisted of about 165 rooms and the estate became the main location where Hearst invited his famous friends and houseguests to elaborate dinners and memorable parties.

Carmel Snow, who had just left Vogue to become editor-in-chief of Hearst’s Harper’s Bazaar, was the one who introduced Hearst to Martín Munkácsi in 1934. Snow had assigned Munkácsi his first fashion shoot for the December 1933 issue. The magazine spreads, where model Lucille Brokaw ran across the beach in different outfits, signaled a radical change in fashion photography of that time, when his photographs were seen as closer to photojournalism than fashion.

Hearst, who had referred to Munkácsi as a “snapshot photographer,” must not have approved of the publication and invited Snow to the Hearst Castle “to discuss Munkácsi’s work.” Munkácsi joined Snow in her trip. Although there is no record of the meeting that took place in Hearst’s Gothic Study, Snow must have convincingly stood her ground: not long after their visit to the Castle, Harper’s Bazaar set up a contract for Munkácsi. He continued to work for the magazine until 1946.

(Source: Penelope Rowlands, A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life in Fashion, Art and Letters. New York: Atria Books, 2005)

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About claartjevandijk

Assistant Curator, Collections at the International Center of Photography, New York
This entry was posted in Fans in a Flashbulb and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Hearst Castle

  1. Angela C says:

    These vintage-at-heart pictures are remarkable. Wow.

  2. Pingback: What inspires you? – Hearst Castle | Interior Design in San Diego

  3. Pingback: A California Castle—Water, Art and Opulence

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