Recently I have been looking a lot at body painting, and one of the masters and pioneers of body painting is also one of the world’s most beautiful women, a 60’s model by the name of Veruschka. She was actually known as the world’s first supermodel.
In the 60’s models did their own hair and makeup so she was a very gifted makeup artist, branching out in 1966 to body painting, which then became a lifelong artistic pursuit. Using only makeup she would transform her extraordinary gangly physique into animals, rocks, trees, wallpaper – anything that took her out of her own skin.
Six feet three inches tall and with impossibly long limbs she inspired countless photographers and is the subject of many of the iconic fashion photographs of the 60’s and 70’s.
I was fortunate enough to meet Veruschka when I was assisting Kay Montano on a shoot with David Bailey, one of my favourite photographers. That day he was shooting four of the greatest models of all time – Veruschka, Penelope Tree, Twiggy and Kate Moss for Vanity Fair. You can imagine what an amazing day in the studio that was! All of them are incredible women and there were some extraordinary and quite surreal moments that day as they reminisced together.
Veruschka is still a force to be reckoned with now, and when you read about her life, you know why. Born into the Prussian aristocracy, her father was a key member of the German Resistance, and eventually was executed by the Nazis. Veruschka and the rest of her family then became refugees, spending the rest of World War II in labour camps. She eventually moved to Florence where she was discovered as a model at the age of 20, before ending up in New York and becoming one of the world’s top models. She was a muse of Avedon, Peter Beard and Irving Penn and famously appeared in Antonioni’s 1966 cult film, Blow Up. (The photographer in Blow up was also modelled on David Bailey).
Here’s some Veruschka videos for you – the first from Style.com about the release of her book, Veruschka, with some of her extraordinary fashion moments in it. The second one is dubbed into Russian (so super handy for my Russian readers), but who cares if you can’t understand it – Veruschka’s breathtaking face speaks for itself.