Hoppé portraits: Society, Studio and Street

EO Hoppé was celebrated in his lifetime as one of the greatest photographers of the early 20th century, photographing figures such as Mussolini and the young Margot Fonteyn, yet he died in relative obscurity.

EO Hoppé, The Pearlies: Master William Dennis Simons, London, 1922, at the National Portrait Gallery 2011 Curatorial Assistance Inc/EO Hoppé Estate Collection

EO Hoppé, The Pearlies: Master William Dennis Simons, London, 1922, at the National Portrait Gallery

In this, the first major exhibition of his work for more than 30 years, the reputation of the man Cecil Beaton called 'the master' is finally restored. With more than 150 works, Hoppé's society portraits and those from his controversial Book of Fair Women are set alongside his photojournalism, revealing a democratic fascination with people that extended from street urchins to sovereigns.EO Hoppé was celebrated in his lifetime as one of the greatest photographers of the early 20th century, photographing figures such as Mussolini and the young Margot Fonteyn, yet he died in relative obscurity. In this, the first major exhibition of his work for more than 30 years, the reputation of the man Cecil Beaton called 'the master' is finally restored. With more than 150 works, Hoppé's society portraits and those from his controversial Book of Fair Women are set alongside his photojournalism, revealing a democratic fascination with people that extended from street urchins to sovereigns.Hoppé's uniquely intimate photographs owe much to his meticulous research and understanding of his subjects. His preference for naturalistic images set him apart from his contemporaries, yielding shots such as the appealingly everyday, almost casual portrait of the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Hoppé's was a world of contrasts, and between society sittings during the 1920s he published two books on London's poor. He was one of the first photographers to use hidden apparatus (he often concealed his camera in a paper bag or parcel), and many of his images catch their subjects at their most honest and unforced.

Don't miss

Of the many portraits of George Bernard Shaw produced by Hoppé, two are on display here. The friendship between the two men is evident in the relaxed intimacy of both contrasting images, but came about in typically Shavian fashion. A one-man show of Hoppé's portraits of eminent men had just opened at the Goupil Gallery in London. A note arrived for Hoppé reading simply, 'Your show is incomplete " G.B.S.', to which the photographer immediately replied 'Apologies for the omission. When will you come for a sitting?' It was to be the start of a long acquaintance.One particularly challenging subject was ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. Elusive and unwilling to keep appointments at Hoppé's studio, Nijinsky was only to be caught at rehearsals or in corridors. One such encounter " as the exhausted dancer came offstage after Le Spectre de la Rose " yielded one of the photographer's most poignant images. Limbs lolling passively, eyes glazed with fatigue " this is an image of Nijinsky the private man.Related storiesBBC News image gallery of Hoppe's American portraits.Article from the Telegraph focusing on Hoppe's portrait of the Duke of York and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.Official Hoppe website with biography, details of works and galleries.Article about Hoppe and the art of the society photograph on the New Humanist website.


Venue details

National Portrait Gallery St Martin's Place London WC2H 0HE 020 7306 0055 www.npg.org.uk

Entry details

50% off with National Art Pass - £5.50 (standard entry charge is £11)

Open daily from 10am until 6pm

Open Thursday and Friday until 9pm

Buy advance tickets from Ticket Master or call 0844 248 5033

What the critics say

the-times

This exhibition, the first on this scale devoted to Hoppe for more than 30 years and which includes many images never previously seen, is an excellent primer.

  • Nancy Durrant
  • The Times

the-observer

Hoppe comes as a revelationWhat strikes, over and again, is the balance between dynamic clarity and softly benevolent light.