Online: Cecil Beaton's Bright Young Things at National Portrait Gallery

Published 13 May 2020

This dazzling exhibition looks at the work of renowned British photographer, Cecil Beaton and his fascination with the glittering 'Bright Young Things' of the roaring twenties.


About the exhibition

Through an extraordinary collection of photographs, Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things traces the beginnings of the famous British photographer’s career, charting his transformation from middle-class schoolboy to glittering star of Vogue.

Best known for his portraits of high society, Beaton was part of a generation too young to fight in the First World War, who lived their youth during the Roaring Twenties. His fascination with photography began as a teenager, when he would photograph his sisters and send his pictures off to magazines. Beaton would have his first photograph published in Vogue in the 1920s, marking the start of a decades-long collaboration.

The National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition explores these formative years, which culminated in his induction into the glamorous ‘Bright Young Things’, a group of Bohemian aristocrats and socialites known for their eccentric and glamorous lifestyles: they famously threw opulent fancy dress parties and went on treasure hunts through nighttime London, channeling Beaton’s famous mantra: ‘Be daring, be different, be impractical.’

How to access online

You can learn all about Beaton and the bohemian lifestyle of the Bright Young Things through four films on the National Gallery’s website, where curator Robin Muir takes you through the exhibition and on a trip to the Roaring Twenties.

Back to top