Launched in 1913 by Conde Nast, publisher of the highly successful fashion magazine Vogue, Vanity Fair set out to cover "the things people talk about at parties - the arts, sports, humor, and so forth." Editor Frank Crowninshield unabashedly told his readers that, merely by virtue of being his readers, they belonged to a privileged group. "That we are trying to appeal to Americans of some little sophistication, we not only admit but boast of, but not that pseudo-sophistication bred of money alone, but rather the sophistication which is the natural and happy result of wide travel, some little knowledge of the world, and a pleasing familiarity with the five arts and the four languages," he wrote in an early issue. He was a connoisseur of the visual arts who used the magazine to chronicle and promote avant-garde artists. Vanity Fair was where Americans learned of Picasso, Rouault, Matisse, Van Gogh, and Gaugin and where they were exposed to the work of the period's best illustrators, caricatures, and photographers. Also reflected in the
magazine was his interest in the social culture, he professed his love for "an immense
number of things which society, money, and position bring in their train: painting, tapestries, rare books, smart dresses, dances, gardens, country houses, correct cuisine, and pretty women."
Its attention to high and mass culture, through its presentation of modern art, theatre, and literature in juxtaposition with advertisements selling high end consumer goods seemed to make Vanity Fair a close model for The New Yorker, however Ross's magazine differed from its predecessor. Although both magazines shared a similar market of wealthy, fastidious readers - circulating among persons of taste and elegance, The New Yorker separated itself as a metropolitan weekly magazine, still on top of current events and addressed not to a national audience but to a limited, local circle. Vanity Fair collapsed in 1936, at least partly as a result of its unstable multi-dimensionality that was possibly too modern in its moment.
1930's Project - American Studies @ UVa