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A small-town girl from rural Maryland, Patchett had no firm ambitions until a friend suggested she drop out of college and go to New York and become a model. Within a year Jean had left school, met model agent Eileen Ford and begun a career that would last an incredible 14 years.
”A young American goddess in Paris couture,” was Irving Penn’s epitaph for Jean, whom he photographed for Vogue as well as in the nude, for a series he later called “the major artistic experience of my life.” Rumors the two had a love affair have never been confirmed, but their relationship sustained a remarkable collaboration which saw Patchett act a series of silent roles for the photographer-auteur.
Letters from Patchett to her family show a young woman in love with her life and eager to share the thrills and struggle of her career. Quotes from photographers including Cecil Beaton, John Rawlings, William Helburn, Jerry Schatzberg and Francesco Scavullo reflect their admiration for her technical skills as a model as well as her unique beauty. A work diary from 1951 allows us to see how–and with whom–she worked with from day to day.
Jean Patchett: An American Beauty will define Patchett’s career in a biographical essay and explore its scope in 120 editorial and advertising images from Vogue, Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar–some iconic, some personal and some that have never been seen before. It’s a unique look at a model who was much more than a mannequin, and a rare collection of some extraordinary fashion images that explore her unique appeal.
Jean Patchett was both model and muse, a famous face from New York’s vibrant mid-century popular culture and the most successful fashion model of her time.