The National Portrait Gallery will mount an exhibit to pay homage to Audrey Hepburn, from July 2 through Oct. 18. From her Dutch ballet career in Holland and her London chorus girl days to her iconic work on “Roman Holiday,” “Sabrina,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “My Fair Lady” and her philanthropic efforts as a UNICEF ambassador, “Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon,” will present 75 pieces including images, vintage magazine articles and posters.
The showcase coincides with the 65th anniversary of Hepburn’s performance in London’s West End nightclub Ciro’s. Highlights include 35 photos lent by Hepburn’s sons, Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Luca Dotti, from the family’s collection, lensed by Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Angus McBean, Irving Penn and Norman Parkinson. This archive includes images of Hepburn at a dance recital, her early work as a fashion model photographed by Antony Beauchamp and behind-the-scenes shots taken by Mark Shaw during the making of “Sabrina.”
Terence Pepper, National Portrait Gallery’s senior special adviser on photographs, and Helen Trompeteler, the gallery’s associate curator of photographs, spent five years working with Dotti and Ferrer on the show. “I first met Luca in 2012 when he came to London to give a presentation on his book about his mother in Rome,” Pepper said. “This came out of a very ambitious exhibition staged in the city. We immediately bonded when he reminded me that I had included a photograph of his mother on the cover of my centenary book on Cecil Beaton in 2004. Shortly after, we were in touch with Sean, who, together with Luca, gave us access to their jointly owned Audrey Hepburn Estate Archive in California.”
While curating the exhibition, Pepper and Trompeteler aimed to create a sense of visual harmony for Hepburn fans.
“Looking at the vast number of books already published on Hepburn, we had to strike a balance between including images people expected as well as seeking out equally interest- ing but previously overlooked items of similar quality and merit,” Pepper said. “The majority of the prints on show have never before been exhibited in this country, including works by Bert Hardy for Picture Post, childhood photographs of her early dance career, and art images like Erwin Blumenfeld’s mirror portrait. The exhibition also includes several early photographs by then-little-known Beauchamp, who was the first established British photographer to shoot Hepburn as a fashion model and sub- sequently on several other occasions. Beauchamp, who started his career at 15 and became Winston Churchill’s son-in-law, would subsequently photograph Hepburn on the set of “War and Peace” and in New York, when she appeared in “Ondine.” The latter image shows her in costume as Ondine at the Cloisters. Exhibition prints from celebrated photographers are juxtaposed with iconic film stills from “Funny Face” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and a whole wall is devoted to magazine covers on which she appeared between 1948 and 1993.