Who can resist the idea of seeing 3 rooms filled with the iconic images of Audrey Hepburn? She must surely be one of the world’s most recognisable female figures, alongside Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy, Elizabeth Taylor and our modern era muse, Kate Moss.
Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) was an actress, model and fashion icon. Her looks broke the mould and it’s appeal persists today, her silhouette and influence are easily seen in today’s fashion editorials and photoshoots. Her talent as an actress took her from a humble West End show girl to a Hollywood star. She made about 30 films during her career and whilst she may not have always chosen the best films, her performances were always outstanding. She added a unique sense of authenticity and warmth to her characters.
This summer, at London’s National Portrait Gallery, visitors are treated to a glimpse of her life told through images. From her early years as a chorus dancer on London’s West End stage through to her laters years when she dedicated herself to her charitable work.
The images on display have been carefully selected from a range of sources including the private collections of her sons, Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Luca Dotti. There are images from her early childhood, her films and some of her most iconic photo shoots. The names behind the cameras are legends in their own right too, with images taken by leading twentieth-century photographers such as Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Terry O’Neill, Norman Parkinson and Irving Penn.
However, there are large portions of her life that are absent and little to give us any insight into her personal life, with the exception of the final room where there is a small selection of beautiful pictures taken of her on her philanthropic trips in Africa. In this room too is a wall dedicated to her appearances on the front cover of Life Magazine, this assemblage of images helps to fill-in a little more detail about the trajectory of her career in the public eye.
So whilst we have the opportunity to look once more at one of the world’s most photographed woman, Audrey Hepburn herself evades us. Rather the exhibition reinforces the mystery that surrounds her as a very private individual and one is struck by just how carefully she managed her image. This does not make the exhibition any less enjoyable, just a little uneventful. At the same time it is delightful and a lovely way to spend a few hours.
Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon is on at the National Portrait Gallery in London until the 18th October 2015. For more information and tickets go to: http://www.npg.org.uk/