Reopening this summer: National Portrait Gallery

In 2020, Sir Paul McCartney unearthed a treasure trove in his own archive. Almost a thousand personal photographs taken on his 35mm camera between 1963-64, when Beatlemania went global, goes on show at the National Portrait Gallery this summer.

Following the British band’s very first visit to the USA the four lads from Liverppol were metamorphosed into the most recognisable people on Earth. And this phenomenon took place in a pre-digital world. The previously unseen photography was taken in six cities, Liverpool, London, Paris, New York, Washington D.C and Miami, and reveals the reality behind the making of four music legends. What was it really like to be a Beatle, or indeed a global celebrity in the Swinging Sixties?

This week the Gallery announced a new programme for 2023. Read on for the treats in store when the gallery once again throws open its doors on 22 June 2023, following the largest redevelopment in its history.

Refubishment of the building has resulted in a complete redisplay of the NPG Collection and 20% more space to accommodate the 250,000 photographs in the Collection. A new Ross Place entrance, a return of the Gallery’s East Wing to public access, and new retail and catering extend the Gallery’s offering. The first floor has become The Blavatnik Wing incorporating nine galleries aimed at exploring society and culture in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Designs are by London-based, Jamie Fobert Architects, working in partnership with Purcell.

Summer shows

Yevonde: Life and Colour

The NPG’s new programme begins with Yevonde: Life and Colour showing work by the twentieth century photographer, a pioneer in the use of colour photography in the 1930s..
L to R: Vivien Leigh by Yevonde (1936, printed 2022-3); Mask (Rosemary Chance) by Yevonde (1938, printed 2022-3). © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Yevonde Middleton (no relation) otherwise known as Madame Yevonde became an innovator in new photographic techniques, experimenting with solarisation (the effect of the sun’s rays) and the Vivex colour process of exposing a partially-developed photograph to light. Yevonde: Life and Colour (22 June – 15 October 2023) will feature new prints and present discoveries following the cataloguing and digitisation of her work which was acquired by the Gallery in 2021. Supported by the CHANEL Culture Fund, the exhibition builds on Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture, a major three-year project that aims to enhance the representation of women in the Gallery’s Collection.

Eyes of the Storm

Millions of eyes were suddenly upon us, creating a picture I will never forget for the rest of my life.

Sir Paul McCartney.

L to R: John Lennon and George Harrison by Paul McCartney; one for the Christmas wish list this year, Eyes of the Storm by Sir Paul. 275 images alongside Sir Paul’s intimate reflections. Published 13 June 2023. Hardback regular price £60.

It’s interesting that Sir Paul’s photography is now being shown. If you recall in A Hard Day’s Night it was Ringo Starr who escaped the pre-performance atmosphere, taking pictures on London streets and canal-side. The film, too, explores the times and remains relevant and an iconic work in black and white. Eyes Of The Storm opens on 28 June and runs until 1 October 2023. Adult ticket an eyewatering £22.00.

Autumn 2023

L to R: Untitled (Painter) by Kerry James Marshall, 2009, Acrylic on PVC, Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago; David Hockney: Drawing from Life (2 November 2023 – 21 January 2024), re-opens after closure due to Covid in March 2020.

Two further exhibitions feature The Time is Always Now: Artists Reframe the Black Figure (22 February – 19 May 2024) and a return of David Hockney: Drawing from Life (2 November 2023 – 21 January 2024),

Spring 2024

Further pioneering female photographers to feature in the new NPG programme 2023-24 Francesca Woodman and Julia Margaret Cameron: Portraits to Dream In (21 March – 30 June 2024).  
L to R: Sadness (Ellen Terry) by Julia Margaret Cameron (1864), Albumen silver print. The J. Paul Getty Museum, LA; Polka Dot #5, Providence, Rhode Island by Francesca Woodman (1976), Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Woodman Family Foundation © Woodman Family Foundation / DACS, London.

Return of The Taylor Wessing Photo Portrait Prize

The Gallery’s annual Photographic Portrait Prize will be renamed the Taylor Wessing Photo Portrait Prize (9 November – 25 February 2024) Vogue House by Frederic Aranda (October 2021) © Frederic Aranda.

An interesting year ahead for one of London’s and the UK’s top galleries. Book online at

The Gallery has also taken the opportunity to rebrand both the logo and the web site.

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