Michael Peto Photographs: Mandela To McCartney

National Portrait Gallery

17 September 2013 – 31 May 2014


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Ten images captured by the late Hungarian-born photojournalist reveal the highlights of an illustrious career.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton by Michael Peto, 1963

Something of a 'who's who' of the famous faces of the 1950s and 60s, the display includes photographs of Samuel Beckett in his Paris apartment, Nelson Mandela on a brief visit to London and Paul McCartney with The Beatles during the making of the film Help!.

Also featured is one of Peto’s last sittings, a young Ian McKellen, pictured at the time of his success in the theatre production of Richard II.

Born in 1908 in Bata, Hungary, Peto settled in London at the outbreak of the Second World War. Originally starting out as a writer, his interest in photography stemmed from a desire to illustrate his own work.

His pictures were first published in The Observer in March 1949, after which he became a regular contributor to the paper, going on to document the key figures and social issues of the era.

Following Peto's death in 1970, his family donated his archive of 130,000 original negatives and vintage prints to the University of Dundee.

The ten featured in this display were printed from Peto's original negatives and have been gifted to the National Portrait Gallery to celebrate his remarkable contribution to portrait photography.

Don't miss

A rarely-seen photograph of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton at the beginning of their love affair is on display in a public gallery for the very first time.

It captures Taylor as she passes Burton a lit cigarette, taken behind-the-scenes during a radio recording of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood in October 1963.

The couple had met the previous year during the filming of Cleopatra and would go on to marry the following March.

Venue information

Opening times

Saturday to Thursday: 10am – 6pm

Friday Lates: 10am – 9pm

Closed 24 – 26 Dec

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