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Audrey Hepburn Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery


The fascinating life and career of celebrated film star, fashion icon and humanitarian, Audrey Hepburn, will be explored in a new photography exhibition opening at the National Portrait Gallery in July 2015.

Coinciding with the 65th anniversary of Hepburn’s little known career-changing performance at renowned West End nightclub, Ciro’s, in the space now occupied by the gallery’s public archive, the exhibition will bring together a remarkable selection of both classic and rarely seen photographs of the successful British actress.

Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon, running from 2nd July until 18th October 2015, will follow Hepburn’s rise to fame, from her early years as a dancer and chorus girl in London’s West End, to her becoming a stage and screen icon, culminating in her philanthropic work in later life. The exhibition will showcase rarely seen photographs from the collection of the Hepburn family, along with iconic portraits of Hepburn by leading photographers of the 20th century, including Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Angus McBean, Irving Penn, and Norman Parkinson.

Highlights from the exhibition will include family photographs of Hepburn practising ballet as a young woman, and examples of her early work in London as a fashion model, in addition to the highly successful Crookes Lacto-Calamine skin cream campaign, photographed by Angus McBean in 1950.


A rarely seen series of photographs by Mark Shaw, taken during the making of Sabrina in 1953 and published as a photo essay in Life magazine, will offer a unique insight into Hepburn’s life on and off set. Photographs by Larry Fried, showing Hepburn in her dressing room on Broadway for Gigi (1951); by Philippe Halsman and George Daniell during the filming of War and Peace (1955); and Terry O’Neill’s on-set photographs during the making of How to Steal a Million (1966) and Two for the Road (1967), will be show. These portraits and many more will document Hepburn’s transformation throughout the 1950s, and her key roles on stage and screen.

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

Curated by Terence Pepper, senior special advisor on photographs, National Portrait Gallery, and Helen Trompeteler, associate curator of photographs, National Portrait Gallery, Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon will follow the captivating rise of one of the world’s first truly international stars.

Pim Baxter, deputy director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: “Audrey Hepburn was one of the world’s most celebrated actresses, and I am delighted that the National Portrait Gallery will hold a major photography exhibition exploring the life and work of such a significant and much-loved figure, who spent the formative early years of her career in Britain. It is particularly appropriate that the exhibition will be staged in such close proximity to where she performed as a young woman at the very start of her career.”

Born in Brussels, Belgium (1929), to a Dutch Baroness and 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 film 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, up 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.

The exhibition runs from 2nd July until 18th October 2015 at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Admission: Adults £9, Concessions £7.50. Including a voluntary donation, Adults £10, Concessions £8.50.

A beautifully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition (including over 60 portraits, some of which are rare and previously unpublished), and will be available to purchase from National Portrait Gallery Shops and online as hardback (RRP £29.95) and paperback (exclusive to the Gallery, RRP £22.50).


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