R arely seen Cecil Beaton prints capturing the irrepressible style and glamour of the Roaring Twenties and Thirties will be shown in a major new exhibition next year, thanks in large part to an extensive loan from the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's.
Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things will run at the National Portrait Gallery in London from 12 March until 7 June 2020 and brings together around 150 works documenting many of Beaton’s friends and contemporaries during this early period of his photography career, as well as exploring the photographer’s own life and contributions to the scene.
Giving unprecedented insight into a time of dazzling creativity, the collection will feature portraits of famous faces like artists Rex Whistler and Stephen Tennant, glamorous socialites Edwina Mountbatten and Diana Guinness (née Mitford) and modernist poets Iris Tree and Nancy Cunard will sit alongside lesser known names such as the eccentric composer and aesthete Lord Berners and Dolly Wilde, Oscar’s equally flamboyant niece.
Beaton was a celebrity in his own right at the time: a glittering society figure celebrated by Vogue. His life and rise from middle-class suburban schoolboy to one of the 20th-century’s most renowned photographers will be woven into the exhibition, which will also include several portraits of Beaton himself – by Paul Tanqueray, Dorothy Wilding, and Curtis Moffat – as well as letters, magazines, invitations, scrapbooks, book jackets and other ephemera.
Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things will be curated by Robin Muir, a Contributing Editor to Vogue who says: “The exhibition will bring to life a deliriously eccentric, glamorous and creative era of British cultural life, combining High Society and the avant-garde, artists and writers, socialites and partygoers, all set against the rhythms of the Jazz Age.”
The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive is a celebratory record of the 20th century’s most influential figures, seen through the eyes of British photographer and award-winning set and costume designer Cecil Beaton. Located at Sotheby’s London and managed by Art Agency, Partners, the archive consists of over 100,000 negatives and 9,000 vintage prints from Beaton’s personal collection. Cecil Beaton negotiated the transfer of his private archive to Sotheby’s in 1977 to preserve it for future generations. Today, the collection – some of which is still stored in Beaton’s original filing cabinets – is available to license and reproduce in print, on film and television, and for exhibition worldwide. Posthumous prints of selected images from the archive are available for sale.