Culture

Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon

A major photography exhibition exploring the fascinating life and career of celebrated film star, fashion icon and humanitarian.

The Luxonomist. 03/07/2015
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Audrey Hepburn dressed in Givenchy with sunglasses by Oliver Goldsmith (Photo: Douglas Kirkland). Click for more information

Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon (2 July – 18 October 2015) follows the captivating rise of one of the world’s first truly international stars, from her early years in the Netherlands and as a dancer and chorus girl in London’s West End, to her becoming a stage and screen icon, and culminating in her philanthropic work in later life.

Photographs of Hepburn before she was famous, formal portraits, and photographs taken on set during the making of some of her most-loved films are brought together in the exhibition. Also on show are portraits of Hepburn by some of the leading photographers of the twentieth century, including Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Angus McBean, Irving Penn, Terry O’Neill and Norman Parkinson.

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Audrey Hepburn by Cecil Beaton, 1960 (Photo: The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s). Click for more information

Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon is the first UK exhibition to be organised with support from the Audrey Hepburn Estate and her sons, Luca Dotti and Sean Hepburn Ferrer. A remarkable selection of rarely seen photographs from their personal collection are included in the exhibition, ranging from an early photograph of Hepburn as a nine-year-old girl in 1938, to portraits from her last major photo shoot, taken by Steven Meisel in 1991. Many of these have never been seen before in the UK.

Highlights from the exhibition include examples of her early work in London as a fashion model for photographs by Antony Beauchamp for the department store Marshall & Snelgrove, and the highly successful Crookes Lacto-Calamine skin-cream campaign, photographed by Angus McBean in 1950.

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Audrey Hepburn photographed by Jack Cardiff during the filming of War and Peace, 1956 (Photo: Jack Cardiff). Click for more information

Photographs by Larry Fried, showing Hepburn in her dressing room on Broadway for Gigi (1951); Hepburn captured in Italy at the time of filming War and Peace (1955) by Philippe Halsman and George Daniell; publicity photographs for Funny Face (1957); and Terry O’Neill’s photographs taken during the making of films How to Steal a Million (1966) and Two for the Road (1967), are among the portraits on show, documenting Hepburn’s transformation throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and her key roles on stage and screen.

Also included in the exhibition are vintage magazine covers, from the Picturegoer in 1952 to the front cover of Lifemagazine featuring Hepburn in Givenchy for her role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961, taken by Howell Conant. Original film stills and ephemera complete the story of one of the world’s most photographed women.

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Audrey Hepburn photographed by Norman Parkinson for Glamour Magazine, 1955 (Photo: Norman Parkinson). Click for more information

Luca Dotti says:  ‘We are thrilled to be able to support this comprehensive and beautifully curated exhibition dedicated to our mother as it allows me and my brother Sean to grasp fragments of an otherwise unreachable past. The experience is all the more rewarding as the exhibition strives to go behind the scenes and give us rare insights into the making of Audrey Hepburn, from her London debut and her rise to stardom in the 50s and 60s, to the last season of her life. She would be honoured to have an exhibition dedicated to her at the National Portrait Gallery. And glad to be back home.’

Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon is co-curated by Terence Pepper, Senior Special Advisor on Photographs, National Portrait Gallery, and Helen Trompeteler, Associate Curator of Photographs, National Portrait Gallery. Pepper has curated a number of high profile photographic exhibitions for the Gallery, including Cecil Beaton Portraits (2004); Angus McBean Portraits (2006); Vanity Fair Portraits (2008) and previously worked with Trompeteler on Man Ray Portraits (2013). Trompeteler’s past displays include Snowdon: A Life in View (2014);Fred Daniels: Cinema Portraits (2012) and Format Photography Agency (2010).

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Audrey Hepburn photograph by Robert Woldres during a UNICEF mission to Sudan, 1989 (Photo: Robert Woldres). Click for more information

Born in Brussels, Belgium (1929), to a Dutch Baroness and an Anglo-Irish father, Hepburn moved to London from Amsterdam in late 1948 to take up a ballet scholarship at the Rambert Ballet School in Notting Hill. After a number of important stage performances as a chorus girl in the West End, Hepburn made her earliest screen debuts in British films. Her critically acclaimed stage performance in Gigi (1951) introduced Hepburn to American theatre audiences and confirmed her position as a new star.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Hepburn’s career flourished with a string of highly successful roles, and she became the first actress to win an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and BAFTA Award for a single performance (her leading role in Roman Holiday, 1953). Hepburn worked as a Unicef ambassador from 1988 until her death in 1993. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992 in recognition of her contribution to the arts and her humanitarian work.

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