Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon
9 Nov 2015 – 14 Feb 2016
The National Portrait Gallery's blockbuster show, which explores the fascinating life of the celebrated film star, fashion icon and humanitarian, is shown in Cheltenham.
Francine Stock explores the exhibition at its showing in London in our video.
Iconic portraits by leading 20th century photographers are brought together with intimate personal pictures from the family collection in order to chart Hepburn's life both on and off the screen. Early photographs capture her difficult childhood in Belgium and Holland, her dedication to ballet practice as a young woman and her first modelling assignments in London – it was during these years she became the face of a campaign for Crookes Lacto-Calamine skin cream.
Hepburn's big break came while working as a dancer and chorus girl in the West End, where she was talent-spotted and cast in a string of successful movies. Portraits show her in many of her most famous roles – such as the front cover she shot for Life magazine, swathed in Givenchy as Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
While Hepburn took up humanitarian work during the 1950s, she became fully dedicated to UNICEF in the 80s. Naturally bilingual in English and Dutch, she also spoke fluent French, Italian, Spanish, and German and travelled to the poorest and most disadvantaged areas of the world to support aid projects. A series of images capture these incredible missions.
As well as pictures by Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Angus McBean, Irving Penn and Norman Parkinson, the display also includes film posters and other ephemera.
In 1953 Mark Shaw was asked to shoot a photo essay about Hepburn for Life Magazine. He was granted unprecedented access to the star – who was filming Sabrina at the time – and followed her both on and off-set. The pictures provide a unique insight into Hepburn's life at the height of her fame, and are shown here.
Further behind-the-scenes shots are provided by Larry Fried, who captures Hepburn in her dressing room on Broadway for Gigi and Philippe Halsman's pictures of her in Italy during the filming of War and Peace.