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The Face of the Artist: Photographs by John Hedgecoe - Press information

21st Jun 2011 - 11th Dec 2011

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, has acquired a major collection of more than 450 portraits by John Hedgecoe, one of the most significant photographers in the history of British photography. An exhibition of works from this collection, The Face of the Artist: Photographs by John Hedgecoe, opened on Tuesday 21 June and continues until Sunday 4 December.

Francis Bacon, 1959

Francis Bacon, 1959

John Hedgecoe

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David Hockney in his Bayswater studio, 1972

David Hockney in his Bayswater studio, 1972

John Hedgecoe

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Henry Moore, 1966

Henry Moore, 1966

John Hedgecoe

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Dame Barbara Hepworth in her familiar fur coat, 1970

Dame Barbara Hepworth in her familiar fur coat, 1970

John Hedgecoe

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Malcolm Bradbury , 1996

Malcolm Bradbury , 1996

John Hedgecoe

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Mary Quant at home in Chelsea, 1964

Mary Quant at home in Chelsea, 1964

John Hedgecoe

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It features portraits of artists such as Dame Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney and Sir Stanley Spencer together with photographs of writers and designers. A central focus of the show will be photographs of artists including Francis Bacon and Henry Moore, who feature in the Centre’s collections, alongside their works.

John Hedgecoe (1932 – 2010) was at the forefront of portrait photography for over 50 years. Perhaps best known for his portraits of artists, he also took pictures of the leading figures in the worlds of literature, science and politics from Agatha Christie to Winston Churchill, while his portrait of the Queen taken in 1966 still graces British postage stamps.

The exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre will feature John Hedgecoe’s photographs together with works from the Centre’s permanent collections. They include Henry Moore with his Mother and Child, Anthony Green with his painting My Mother Alone in her Dining Room, Lucie Rie with a selection of her ceramics, and Lynn Chadwick and Elisabeth Frink alongside their sculptures. A portrait of Francis Bacon by Hedgecoe will sit alongside Bacon’s Sketch for a Portrait of Lisa, 1955, from the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. The Centre has an outstanding collection of early Francis Bacon paintings and Sir Robert Sainsbury considered Sketch for a Portrait of Lisa to be “one of the most beautiful pictures Francis has ever painted”, stating that he would have bought it even if he wasn’t related to Lisa.

Other artists featured in the exhibition include Edward Bawden, Sir Peter Blake, Sir Terry Frost, Dame Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney, Eduardo Paolozzi, Sir Stanley Spencer and Graham Sutherland. The Face of the Artist includes portraits of designers including Sir Terence Conran and Mary Quant, as well as a small number of photographs of literary figures linked to UEA (Sir Malcom Bradbury, Sir Andrew Motion, Rose Tremain and Sir Angus Wilson) as a precursor to a future exhibition of writers’ portraits from the Hedgecoe collection.

John Hedgecoe’s unconventional and elegant style ranged from the formal, such as posed shots of artists with their work in the studio, to close-ups revealing their various reactions to being photographed. In 1969 he photographed Francis Bacon. The posed shots were taken at the RCA as Bacon had just accidently burnt down his studio. More informal photographs of Lucie Rie were taken in her home in 1980. Hedgecoe recalled, “She invited me to stay for tea, which she’d set out like a Mondrian painting: all the sandwiches were cut into neat squares and triangles, with the plates arranged with precision, while a single tulip stood in one of her pots. It all looked fantastic and I could hardly bring myself to eat it and spoil the effect”.

John Hedgecoe was friends with many of his subjects. He knew Henry Moore for over 40 years and photographed him extensively in many settings and produced 4 books. Richard Calvocoressi has described the books as “an exceptional range of incisive and insightful photographs. These are among the most important visual records we have of Moore’s life and work”.

An internationally acclaimed photographer, educator and writer, John Hedgecoe studied photography at Guildford School of Art. Following a period as an aerial photographer in the RAF, he joined Queen magazine as staff photographer. In the mid-1960s he persuaded the Royal College of Art (RCA) to allow him to create a department of photography and in 1975 he became the first Professor of Photography. He was powerful creative force at the RCA, a dynamic personality, determined to place the study of photography on an equal footing with other arts and to make the institution one of the most significant artistic institutions internationally. His photographs have appeared in leading newspapers and magazine titles and can be found in major collections around the world. Hedgecoe was also best-selling author of over 30 books on photography, selling millions of copies world-wide during his lifetime. His ‘how to’ books provided the first educational building blocks for amateurs and professionals alike.


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