Lisa Fonssagrives (May 17, 1911 – February 4, 1992) has been credited as the first supermodel, and was cited as the inspiration for Christian Dior’s original “New Look” of 1947.
The Swedish-born beauty posed for some of the most famous photographers of her time, including Horst P. Horst, George Hoyningen Huene, and Irving Penn, whom she married in 1950.
Her image appeared on the cover of many magazines during the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, including Town & Country, Life, and the original Vanity Fair.
In the late 1940’s, when most models were paid $10 – $25 an hour, Fonssagrives was earning $40 an hour. While most models’ careers ended before they turned 30, hers flourished until she was past 40.
Fonssagrives was a frequent subject of Penn’s photographs for Vogue magazine, particularly in his studies of French haute couture.
When she died at age 80, Alexander Liberman, the editorial director of Conde Nast Publications said that the Penns represented "an extraordinary relationship between a photographer and a model."
He also said "she epitomized a very noble period of fashion and couture. She gave a classical dignity to anything she wore."
However, Fonssagrives had a more modest attitude when it came to her contributions as a model. She was once quoted in Time magazine as saying: "It is always the dress, it is never, never the girl. I’m just a good clothes hanger."
In addition to modeling, she also pursued careers as a ballet dancer, a photographer, a fashion designer and a sculptor.
Photos courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.