Show of unseen Paul McCartney photographs—taken at the height of Beatlemania—will help relaunch London’s National Portrait Gallery

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The National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London will reopen in June after three years of refurbishment with an exhibition of unseen photographs by Paul McCartney taken at the height of Beatlemania and a show of the little-known colour portrait photographer Yevonde (1893-1975).

Candid photographs of McCartney’s bandmates, entourage, trailing press pack and others who caught his eye will go on show in Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm (28 June-1 October). The exhibition will feature more than 200 photographs from the musician’s personal archive taken December 1963 and February 1964, as the Beatles played concerts up and down the country and made their infamous first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, filmed in New York, which was seen by an astonishing 73 million viewers. As the eyes of the world turned towards the Beatles, McCartney trained his amateur lens on those swirling around the titular eye of the storm. 

Yevonde: Life and Colour (22 June-15 October) will trace the life and career of the portraitist who was an early adopter of colour photography in the 1930s. The Yevonde archive was acquired by the NPG in 2021 and the exhibition of portraits and still-lifes will draw on the recent research to show Yevonde’s experimentation with new techniques such as solarisation and the triple-negative Vivex colour process.

Later in the year, the David Hockney: Drawing for Life (2 November-21 January 2024) exhibition will return to the gallery after having its initial run cut short by the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown in spring 2020. The exhibition traces David Hockey’s career through the portraits of five people who he returned to again and again (among them his mother and his muse Celia Birtwell). The show will also include a number of new portraits that the artist made between 2020 and 2022 of visitors to his home in Normandy, northern France.

Further shows have been announced for 2024. The Time is Always Now: Artists Reframe the Black Figure (22 February 2024-19 May 2024), will be a major exploration of contemporary Black portraiture, with works by artists such as Kerry James Marshall, Michael Armitage, Amy Sherald and Barbara Walker. This will be followed by Francesca Woodman and Julia Margaret Cameron: Portraits to Dream In (21 March 2024-30 June 2024), which will match two photographers who lived a century apart but whose portraits “are not intended to mimic reality, but conjure notions of imagination, beauty, symbolism, transformation and storytelling”, according to a press statement.

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