Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon

The National Portrait Gallery was my very first blog review back in January 2012 (you can read it here if you like *cringes slightly*). I can’t believe how far the blog and I have come since then close on four years later! At the time I had no idea what I was doing, I took a photo with an iPad like the tourist I really was (and still am in many ways). I had read somewhere that you should write no more than 500 words in a post so I tried to stick to it and then hit publish. I really just wanted somewhere that encouraged me to explore London, write about my finds, and share my photography addiction. I never thought about whether I’d still be writing it today or how it has actually completely changed how I see London and (hopefully!) improved my photography skills.

None of this really came to mind on the rainy Monday I had off work a couple of weeks ago. But as I walked around the National Gallery whilst I waited for my slot to see Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon, I was surprised at how after almost six years in London that I’d never set foot in the museum attached to the National Portrait Gallery. One of the crazy things about this city is just how much I have to uncover still but how easy it is to return to places and find something new.

National-Gallery-London -1

National-Gallery-London

I wasn’t sure whether to write a post about the exhibition as you have no doubt heard about it since it opened in July, but when I realised how I’d come full circle on blog posts and having decided it was an exhibition definitely worth visiting before it closes on 18 October I felt the need to share something.

Audrey Hepburn is possibly one of Hollywood’s most enigmatic icons. I’ve only seen the classic and possibly most well-known film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and I’ll be honest I don’t know much about her at all. But I did know that she was as an icon and a muse to many fashion designers and photographers so I was sure that an exhibition about Audrey was something I’d enjoy.

Audrey-Hepburn-Irving-Penn

The tickets online are largely sold out but knowing that you can still get tickets on the door for most exhibitions I took my chances. I arrived about 12pm and got a ticket for the 1.30pm slot. Luckily it’s really not too difficult to fill the time in the centre of London with two museums next to one another! But when the clock struck 1.30pm I was eager to enter.

The exhibition provides a selection of portraits of Audrey which illustrate her life as an actress and fashion icon. From famous photographers, to magazine covers and behind the scenes shots, she really is striking from every angle. The image above by Irving Penn for American Vogue in 1951 was one of my favourites, it’s so simple but it really does feel like she’s smiling right at you. A reflection of true skill from both the photographer and its subject.

You can really see just how adored she was by the fashion industry as you walk from frame to frame. I’d seen the below image at the Blumenfeld exhibition, one example among many showing how she captured the hearts of the industry.

Audrey-Hepburn-Erwin-Blumenfeld

The colour photography was equally stunning next to the black and white images I associate more with old Hollywood. I can’t remember having seen Audrey in colour photography before!

Audrey-Hepburn-by-Philippe-Halsman

What I found most interesting in terms of Audrey’s life was the later years which saw her involvement in UNICEF as Special Ambassador from 1988. An organisation she dedicated many years of her life to before her death in 1993.

The exhibition isn’t very long and if you read every piece of text it should take you no longer than half an hour to absorb. I found myself lingering at the display at the end and I was tempted to do a second loop around, wondering if there was anything I’d missed and if there was anything more to discover.

Audrey-Hepburn--Portraits-of-an-icon

I eventually returned to a grey day feeling just that little bit brighter and wondering if I could get hold of some of Audrey Hepburn’s movies to watch under a blanket with a hot chocolate. (If you have any recommendations, do share them in the comments below!)

Trafalgar-Square-London

If you love fashion, photography or film I definitely recommend popping into the National Portrait Gallery so see this exhibition (and a refreshed selection of contemporary portraits, my favourite part of the gallery free for the public to roam).

It’s £10 per adult. You can buy tickets online here, or like me you can buy your ticket on the door. If you’re taking the risky approach at the weekend I’d recommend getting there as close to 10am to have the best chance. The NPG is open 7 days a week, 10am – 6pm (and up to 9pm on Thursday and Fridays).

If you really want to linger in the gallery longer the Portrait restaurant has great views of London.

But if you can’t visit, you can read more about Audrey’s life on the NPG’s website here. You can also buy a book of the exhibitions portraits here (a great gift or coffee table addition!).