STEVE MCQUEEN, RICHARD AVEDON & RUTH ANSEL | HARPER’S BAZAAR, 1965

At first look there are obvious reasons to love this (February, 1965) cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine– Steve McQueen of course, and the amazing photography of the legendary Richard Avedon. But there is another visionary manifested here, not often spoken of, especially back when this was on the newsstand. Ruth Ansel.

Ruth Ansel was a female pioneer in the world of graphic design. To read Ruth’s tales of her early days working with legends and creating a burgeoning new art form is fascinating– even though I’m not a graphic designer myself, there is so much that I appreciate and admire. An interesting footnote– 22 year old Ali MacGraw (pre-McQueen days) worked under Diana Vreeland at Harper’s Bazaar until she was finally convinced by a bevy of photographers to get out from behind the camera and strike a pose. And the rest is history, as they say…

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When Ruth Ansel put Steve McQueen, photographed by Richard Avedon (also the guest editor), on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1965, it was the first time a male appeared on the cover of a women’s fashion magazine. 

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“Point to an iconic magazine cover of the last 40 years, and chances are it was designed by Ruth Ansel. Since 1961, when she talked her way into the art department at Harper’s Bazaar, Ansel has defined the look of some of America’s visually influential publications. In the 1960s, her work for Bazaar captured a transitional moment in fashion and society. In the 1970s, she became the first female art director of The New York Times Magazine and in the 1980s she created the look of Vanity Fair.”

–Carol Kino

Model Jean Shrimpton & actor Steve McQueen, Harper’s Bazaar magazine, February, 1965

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“I chose Bazaar because I liked it much better than Vogue– graphically, it was more sophisticated. I called cold and asked to talk to an editor. It turned out there was an opening in the art department, and Marvin Israel, the director, took a big chance on me. He wanted somebody that didn’t have to unlearn graphic design clichés. Bea Feitler, his protégé and star pupil from Parsons, had been hired a month earlier. My first few months were a disaster.”

–Ruth Ansel

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Model Jean Shrimpton & actor Steve McQueen, Harper’s Bazaar magazine, February, 1965

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“The whole art department consisted of only the three of us. I learned everything on that job, from Diana Vreeland, Marvin Israel, and Richard Avedon, our chief photographer– the Holy Trinity. They dared each other, they provoked each other– they accepted nothing but the best from each other.”

–Ruth Ansel

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Steve McQueen, Harper’s Bazaar magazine, February, 1965

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“In 1962 Marvin was fired, and Bea and I became the art directors. We were pioneers in a way– not only were we young women but we were working as graphic design partners. Then in 1971, a new editor came in to make Bazaar more newsy and we were both fired– almost simultaneously.”

–Ruth Ansel

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Model Jean Shrimpton & actor Steve McQueen, Harper’s Bazaar magazine, February, 1965

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Model Jean Shrimpton & actor Steve McQueen, Harper’s Bazaar magazine, February, 1965

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Model Jean Shrimpton & actor Steve McQueen, Harper’s Bazaar magazine, February, 1965

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Writer Carol Kino’s interview with Ruth Ansel for Bal Harbour magazine–

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More on Ruth Ansel here…

8 thoughts on “STEVE MCQUEEN, RICHARD AVEDON & RUTH ANSEL | HARPER’S BAZAAR, 1965

  1. Wonderful post. I think the design and editorial content of many of the women’s magazines of the 60s and 70s offer some of the strongest cultural iconography of any publications out there. Ruth Ansel got to experience so much first hand and shaped a lot of perceptions…

  2. “Mad” Magazine? I don’t think so Paul. Congratulations Selvedge Yard. Just when it seems you’ve gone all “biker” you head back to the source of cool with this Steve McQueen Harper’s Bazaar pictorial which is one of your best yet. I love such wonderful surprises. Great images from the late 60′s. At the age of 11 I did want to be Steve McQueen when I grew up.

  3. In a certain way, you just CAN NOT touch McQueen… he looks cool all the time, even looking like the “MAD” cartoon!

  4. I’ve got to agree. I think McQueen is the king of cool, but my first thought was that he looked exactly like Alfred E. Newman in that cover as well. The smile, the freckles, the aspect of just the face, the tie, the shoulders, and nothing else in the photo…has a MAD magazine cover stamped ALL over it.

  5. Mad Magazine look may have been intentional: Mad was red hot in that time frame and not the cliche it is today. We forget how different the culture of past eras were, especially when powerful images from them jump out at us with strong contexts today…

    Great post, thanks for your great blog

  6. Great photos, we recently included your site in a blog linking back. Your website is fantastic and very much enjoy reading through the articles and looking at all the vintage clothing and photos…keep up the great work.

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