Unseen photo of Duchess of Argyll set to go on display in London
Previously unseen photographs of Princess Alexandra and the Duchess of Argyll are among 25 newly discovered works by Madame Yevonde to be unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery.
Yevonde: Life in Colour, will feature 150 portraits by the artist, who became an innovator in new techniques, experimenting with solarisation and the Vivex colour process. It is the first exhibition dedicated to her since 1998 and will open in June.
Some of the most famous faces of the 1930s will be showcased, including George Bernard Shaw, Vivien Leigh, John Gielgud and Princess Alexandra.
The exhibition, supported by the Chanel Culture Fund, is the first major show that is part of the gallery’s reopening in June. The building has been closed for the past three years for a £35 million refurbishment, which is expected to expand the building’s space by 20 per cent.
The show will explore Yevonde’s life and career through self-portraiture and autobiography, reflecting on the growing independence of women after the First World War and of the freedom that photography afforded her.
The London-based photographer, who was born in 1893 and died in 1975, was committed to colour photography when it was not considered a serious medium, capturing glamorous debutantes, the Royal family, leading writers, artists and film stars.
Her images quickly became published in leading fashion magazines, such as Tatler and the Sketch where she depicted the new fashion freedoms of the time, while her commercial work appeared in advertisements, often using still-life or models in tableaux.
A vibrant colour portrait of one of the most photographed women in the 1930s, socialite Margaret Sweeny, who in 1951 became the Duchess of Argyll, will be shown for the first time.
The Duchess gained notoriety through a high-profile divorce after her husband, the 11th Duke of Argyll, hired a locksmith to break into her private drawers where Polaroid pictures of her infidelities were hidden.
The exhibition will also feature a new colour print of her portrait of Surrealist patron and poet Edward James. The image was used on the cover of his 1938 volume of poetry, The Bones of My Hand.
A previously unseen self-portrait has also been uncovered, showing Yevonde looking directly into the lens, positioned alongside her weighty one-shot camera and using Herbert Read’s 1933 Art Now: An Introduction to the Theory of Modern Painting and Sculpture as a prop.
Clare Freestone, photographs curator at the National Portrait Gallery, said: “Yevonde’s originality demonstrated through these photographs traverses almost a century and provides a vision so fresh and relatable.
“It is enthralling that there are further revelations to be transformed into colour after almost a century or, for some, for the very first time.”
Yevonde: Life in Colour opens at The National Portrait Gallery on June 22.